Bruce Owen reflects on his time as director of the Public Policy Program

July 25, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
(Courtesy of Bruce Owen)
(Courtesy of Bruce Owen)

Bruce Owen Ph.D. ’70, who has served as director of the Public Policy Program at Stanford since 2005, recently announced that he will be stepping down from his position. Deputy director of SIEPR and Public Policy co-director Gregory Rosston M.A. ’86 Ph.D. ’94 will succeed Owen on Sept. 1.

In addition to leading the public policy program, Owen is also a professor in public policy and a Senior Fellow at SIEPR. With staffing transitions beginning during summer quarter, The Daily spoke with Owen about his plans for the future.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): How did you come to decide that you wanted to retire from teaching and leading the public policy program?

Bruce Owen (BO): Well, I’m not necessarily leaving teaching. I am committed to teaching my regular course on the economic analysis of law next winter, and after that it’s possible that I will do other teaching assignments as the spirit moves me. All I’m really doing at the moment is stepping down as director of the public policy program, so I’ll have other commitments — some of them teaching and some related to my appointment as Senior Fellow at SIEPR.

I think 10 years is a long time for anyone to be in charge of any institution or enterprise, and I have accomplished almost all of what I had hoped to at the beginning. Not quite all, but I don’t see any immediate hope of finishing the rest in a reasonable amount of time. So I decided to just throw a line and go on to other things that interest me.

TSD: In your mind, what have been the most important goals and challenges that you have encountered while serving as director of the Public Policy program?

BO: The biggest challenge that I have taken on is to accept the invitation I received at the beginning from the School of Humanities and Sciences to establish a new graduate program in public policy — the MPP [Master in Public Policy] program in shorthand. So that has been established with a lot of help from a lot of people, and we now have roughly 40 students enrolled in the various degrees associated with that program, and we’re accepting recent Stanford graduates as well as Stanford graduate students and graduating seniors.

We have a pretty wide variety of students — lots of students from the other schools at Stanford. We have medical school students, law school students, business school students, quite a substantial number of education school students now. And we’re well on the way to the original goal of having roughly 40 graduates per year, which would be 80 students enrolled in total.

TSD: What have been your most memorable experiences from your time with the public policy program?

BO: My favorite activity is actually talking to the students one-on-one, and I’ve enjoyed that very much.

The other thing that I have enjoyed a lot is the weekly colloquium where we have guest speakers — usually Stanford faculty members or researchers — and then we ask the speakers to leave after an hour so that the students can discuss among themselves what they have been doing and what they heard. I think that has been awfully fruitful, and also it provides an opportunity for the students to get to know each other, which is important in the graduate program.

TSD: What’s next for you?

BO: Well, I am going to remain a Senior Fellow at SIEPR for the indefinite future, and I hope to go back to working on my book on political corruption, which I have gotten interested in over the past few years and hope to pursue further.

TSD: What will you miss about your job?

BO: It’s going to be people. I will miss the students, assuming that I don’t continue to see them in a teaching role, and I will also miss working with the staff and the faculty. We have had a very close-knit group of faculty members, many of whom have been with the program since the beginning. And, all along, we have had a terrific group of staff. The administrator, Nikki Calastas, who is just about to leave for Australia, and several others — there is going to be a lot of turnover in the program this summer with staff as well as my own departure. And I am going to miss all of these people and the opportunity to be working with them. It has been a lot of fun.

This transcription has been condensed and edited.

Contact Michael Gioia at mgioia2 ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.

Michael Gioia was Managing Editor of Opinions from Vol. 250-251; he also previously led the News division. He is from Plano, Texas and studied History and Modern Languages at Stanford. When Michael is not working for The Daily, he can generally be found reading or drinking coffee.

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