How Political Scientists Change the World

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on June 29, 2016 · 0 comments

in Alumni Life, Health

Want to change the world? That’s how Course 17 invites prospective students to consider a major in political science. Founded some 50 years ago in the throes of the Vietnam War, the department’s faculty, students, and alumni have made significant contributions to national security, health care and social policy, American elections, and US industrial policy. In honor of the anniversary, the department has shared profiles of three outstanding alumni who came to the celebration. Here are excerpts:

Lourdes Melgar PhD '92

Lourdes Melgar PhD ’92

Lourdes Melgar PhD ’92, Mexico’s Deputy Secretary of Energy for Hydrocarbons

What aspects of your career have you found most satisfying?

Throughout my career in public office, I have had the privilege of participating in highly relevant policy-making initiatives aimed at furthering the national interest of Mexico. Bringing a vision, defined through scholarly work, into policies I get to design and implement is highly rewarding. I feel most satisfied when I sense that the work I’ve done has contributed to improving conditions and opportunities for present and future generations of Mexicans.

Mexico’s Energy Reform is a case in point. Our country is undergoing a profound transformation regarding the way we source, produce, and use energy. The drafting of our new energy model demanded—and continues to demand—the understanding of highly complex issues, ranging from specific technical concepts to a deep knowledge of our political norms and social needs. Our objective is to ensure that public policies, regulations, and legal instruments we design truly contribute to Mexico’s sustainable development…. Read the full profile.

Drew Altman PhD '83

Drew Altman PhD ’83

Drew Altman PhD ’83, President and Chief Executive Officer, Kaiser Family Foundation

What first drew you into the field of political science and subsequently a career in health policy? 

It seemed to me early on that the obstacles to addressing the big social problems I have always cared the most about were not technical. Instead they are about how our political system works—and fails to work. That brought me to political science and to a career in government, policy analysis and public service, ultimately establishing the Kaiser Family Foundation as an independent source of policy information in the health system. Even more then the specific knowledge I took from my training in the department, the greatest gift was a tolerance for how the world of policy I would work in would actually function….Read the full profile.

Eugene Skolnikoff PhD '65

Eugene Skolnikoff PhD ’65

Eugene Skolnikoff PhD ’65, MIT professor emeritus, expert in security

You began your unique career as a student of electrical engineering, serving as a project engineer for the U.S Army…as well as a presidential science advisor. What prompted your shift from engineering to political science?

A year in the administration at MIT and two years in the Army Security Agency still didn’t provide clear direction, but then Sputnik in 1957 led President Eisenhower to set up the first Presidential Office of the Science Advisor in the White House. Jim Killian, then president of MIT, asked me to join his very small, but highly influential staff. I had to learn fast and found I was fascinated and intrigued by the workings of government in general and, nearer at hand, how science and technology related to public policy. Read the full profile.

Learn more about the MIT Department of Political  Science.

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