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April 17, 2013: News, Research and Events from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
Baker Institute Update: A new Baker Institute class in public policy; NBC's Robert Bazell named new nonresident science fellow
In this edition
Rice students explore public policy in new Baker Institute class

This semester, Rice students are exploring compelling questions in contemporary public policy at the first undergraduate policy course ever offered by the Baker Institute. "Introduction to Public Policy" (POST 201) covers an array of issues, from energy policy to U.S. drug laws, and is taught by a rotating roster of 19 institute fellows and scholars. Each is responsible for providing one or two lectures on their area of expertise.

"You learn about a lot of subjects that affect your life in one way or another," said Gavin Cross, a freshman at Wiess College. The guest lecturer format means "the class stays really fresh, especially in comparison to my other courses."

The course stems from founding director Ambassador Edward Djerejian's long-term aim to develop an educational component to the Baker Institute, and to provide a convenient way to introduce a number of important policy issues to Rice undergraduates.

"Many of the students have been inspired by the chance to interact with the fellows, and the fellows appreciate the opportunity to work with these talented, passionate students," the ambassador said. "We look forward to continuing to develop this course as a bridge between the worlds of policy research and undergraduate education."

So far this spring, students have learned about a possible blueprint for regulating marijuana from William Martin, director of the Baker Institute Drug Policy Program. Djerejian and Middle East Scholar Andrew Bowen lectured, respectively, on the Arab Awakening and the deepening crisis in Syria; John Mendelsohn, L.E. and Virginia Simmons Fellow in Health and Technology Policy and former president of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, discussed advances in genomic medicine; Neal Lane, senior fellow in science and technology policy and former science adviser to President Bill Clinton, explained why it is getting harder to give science advice to the U.S. president; and George Abbey, Baker Botts Senior Fellow in Space Policy and former Johnson Space Center director, addressed the future of space travel, to name just a few topics.

"It’s important that we're reaching students when they're young and just forming their ideas of how the world works," said Russell Green, Will Clayton Fellow in International Economics (pictured above), who taught a class on "A Cynical View of Public Policy: How Economists View Special Interests and Corruption."  "The policy course encourages students to think about issues outside the classroom — subjects that will impact their future in the years to come."
 
"Introduction to Public Policy" will be offered each year in the spring. Those who aren't necessarily planning a career in public policy can nevertheless benefit from the class, said Green. "Better informed citizens will be better informed voters and make a positive impact in their community or whatever sized stage they are hoping to become active in," he said.

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Journalist Robert Bazell named nonresident science policy fellow

The Baker Institute has named leading American science and health journalist Robert Bazell a nonresident fellow in science and technology policy.

Bazell, who is currently the chief science and health correspondent at NBC News, will focus on the intersections of science and health journalism and public policy. He will be leaving the network later this summer to take an adjunct faculty position at Yale University in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.

"I am deeply honored to be returning to academia and to be associated with such excellent institutions as Rice and the Baker Institute," Bazell said. "I admire the research and I hope to make a meaningful contribution."

Bazell will work in the institute's Science and Technology Policy Program with Neal Lane, the institute's senior fellow in science and technology policy and Rice's Malcolm Gillis University Professor, and fellow in science and technology policy Kirstin Matthews. He will regularly visit the institute to lecture and meet with students.

"Robert Bazell has been one of America's leading science and health journalists of the past three decades," said Edward Djerejian, founding director of the Baker Institute. "His expertise on a wide range of subjects in science, technology and medicine will be a valuable resource to the Baker Institute and the broader Rice community."

A primary mission of the Science and Technology Policy Program is to engage policymakers and scientists in substantive dialogue with the hope that policy will more accurately reflect and be more consistent with current scientific knowledge.

"Robert Bazell is a perfect match for the Science and Technology Program with our Civic Scientist Program's emphasis on public understanding of science," Matthews said. "Who is better at helping explain science to a general audience than Robert?”

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Rice University's Baker Institute is a nonpartisan public policy think tank located in Houston, Texas. The institute's distinguished fellows and scholars research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.
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