Policy Wonkery, Wharton Style

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Businesspeople are from Mars, bureaucrats are from Venus. That’s the conventional wisdom, at least—but a new program at Wharton aims to shrink the supposed distance between the two. In September the school announced the establishment of the Wharton Public Policy Initiative, which “will bridge the intellectual divide that currently exists between policymakers and the business community.” 

Funded by gifts totaling $11 million by Marc J. Rowan W’85 WG’85, Marc A. Spilker W’86, and Diane Isaacs Spilker W’87, the program will offer “practical, timely, nonpartisan research and resources to government policymakers and key decision-makers” via conferences and webinars, as well as established channels including Wharton Executive Education and the Knowledge@Wharton online journal, according to a press release. 

Mark Duggan, chair of Wharton’s department of business economics and public policy, will serve as the faculty director. The program will also sponsor a Washington-based executive director charged with strengthening Wharton’s public-policy presence there. 

“Wharton is uniquely positioned to effectively generate and disseminate new knowledge that is both relevant and nonpartisan—at a time of great partisanship—where it will be of tremendous use to decision makers,” said Rowan. “This is a vital partnership, and one that has the ability to effect positive and lasting change.”

The Wharton Public Policy Initiative comes at a time of increasing interest in the social impacts of commerce at the school. “The time that the business of business was business is passé,” Wharton Dean Thomas Robertson recently told The Philadelphia Inquirer. Robertson’s stated mission is to make Wharton a “force for social and economic good in the world.”

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