Institute for Policy
Christine A. Rowett
A top bookshelf in Sandra Newman's office is decorated with greeting cards sent from former students. Included in the missives is a computer-generated card that reads, "Thank you for carrying the world of IPS on your shoulders. You have 100 percent of our support." It was sent by the staff of the 10-year-old research institution.
Newman became interim director of the Institute for Policy Studies after reluctantly conceding to founding director Lester Salamon's wishes to resign from the position in June. He remains director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at IPS.
"I personally was very sorry that Les wanted to step down," Newman said. "Once I got over the disappointment, my attitude was, 'Change is hard but it's also an opportunity.'"
Newman, who has said she does not wish to be considered a candidate for the position permanently, is hoping to use that opportunity to reinforce the ideas, goals and commitments of the institute.
She believes that even though IPS is located across the street from the heart of the Homewood campus, its integration with the university is not well-known and its work remains somewhat a mystery.
In fact, most IPS researchers have joint appointments in other departments and students from all fields may take part in IPS courses of study.
The institute is devoted to the study of programs and policies that assist people to make the transition from dependency to productive citizenship and the mechanisms, such as public/private partnerships, that make that transition possible.
"Baltimore is a wonderful laboratory for a lot of the work that we do, and I don't mean that in a negative way," Newman said. "Every researcher at the institute has done something of substance with either the city, region or state, ranging from research projects to serving on task forces or boards."
Researcher David Altschuler was a member of Mayor Kurt Schmoke's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice, Burt Barnow evaluated Maryland's welfare reform waivers and Maryann Feldman is studying the distribution and warehousing industry in the state.
Additionally, senior fellows Marion Pines and Arnold Packer are involved in student dropout prevention programs and approaches to education in urban schools, respectively.
"If there are ways we can assist the city or the state with our expertise, we certainly want to be able to do so," Newman said. "That's very important."
Newman's own research focuses on housing policy, particularly for the vulnerable. Her work demonstrated that many mentally ill people are capable of independent living while making use of community-based services. And her book, Beyond Bricks and Mortar, co-authored by economist Ann Schnare, had an important impact on housing legislation, Newman said.
"Studying social issues is extremely satisfying work," she said. "And intellectually, it's very challenging.
"The part that's most fulfilling is the intellectual challenge of it," she added,"and the fact that the problems are very important. I think part of the stimulation is that they are not simple to solve."
Newman is particularly proud of the Master of Arts in Policy Studies program at IPS; it is the only such program in the country housed in a policy research institute within a university.
"Students are working alongside their faculty mentors," Newman said.
Though this year's is the largest class in the program's history, it is one of the smallest policy studies programs in the nation. Similar programs, Newman said, may contain hundreds of students.
"We think that's an enormous benefit to our students," she said. "They get a tremendous amount of individual attention."
MAPS is also one of few policy studies programs that has a thesis requirement; students are expected to produce an independent piece of policy research with the guidance of one or more faculty members. It is one factor, Newman believes, that has contributed to the program's prominent reputation in the policy field.
"Our students are tremendously interesting people," Newman said. "They have an enormous commitment to public service and come to us because they want to hone their analytic skills and develop more expertise."
Last year, a group of master's students did an analytical study of crime rates in Baltimore.
"We set very high standards for MAPS," she said, "but we work closely with our students to make sure they achieve."
Future plans for the institute include further collaboration with other departments. Andrew Cherlin of the Sociology Department, for example, serves as chairman of the Faculty Oversight Committee for the MAPS program. Committee members include John Boland of the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, Matthew Crenson of Political Science and Vicente Navarro of Health Policy and Management.
"Collaboration works nicely when it's around research," Newman said. "My feeling is we have a number of colleagues at Hopkins who share our interest in policy issue. ... We are sort of the interdisciplinary network of social science here and very welcoming in that regard."
Next month the institute will begin a seminar series titled "The Press and Public Policy," to be directed by senior fellow Joseph Sterne, a former editorial page editor of The Sun.
Another seminar series on "New Developments in Social Policy," to be directed by Barnow, Robert Moffitt of Economics and David Salkever from the School of Hygiene and Public Health, will include issues relating to welfare reform, school choice and teen pregnancy. It will begin with a presentation titled "Life After Welfare Reform" by Patricia Ruggles, chief economist at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Newman is looking forward to the time when a new director will take over at IPS and she can return to full-time research and teaching. She may very well offer a greeting card of support to her successor.
"I have tremendous loyalty to this organization and will do whatever is necessary to keep it moving in the right direction," she said. "I'm sure that we can attract a top-flight person.
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