New McCourt School of Public Policy Gets Historic Launch
October 8, 2013 – The university celebrated the formal launch today of the McCourt School of Public Policy (MSPP), a long-held vision that President John J. DeGioia says acknowledges the urgency of solving some of the most complex public policy challenges of our time.
“As we wrestle with the challenges of access to education and health care, of the importance of the dignity of work and the need to ensure our economies can provide for the needs of all of our people,” DeGioia said during a ceremony that included a full academic procession and regalia, “we need to engage the voices from other parts of the world – scholars and practitioners whose [research on] similar challenges are producing powerful new ideas that can provide creative, imaginative, innovative solutions for our societies.”
The vision of creating a premier school of public policy in the nation’s capital is made possible by a $100 million gift – the largest in university history – from Frank H. McCourt Jr. (C’75), who has extensive connections to Georgetown.
“I’m sure that the irony is not lost on any of us that our government is shut down on the day that this school is being established,” McCourt said. “In a world where policies too often seem abstract, impersonal and ideologically driven, this school will strive to reconnect policy with the people it impacts ...”
McCourt has served on both the university’s board of directors and board of regents and has several relatives who are Georgetown graduates.
Two of Frank H. McCourt Jr.'s brothers attended Georgetown – Terence P. McCourt (C’77) and David C. McCourt (C’79) – and their father, Frank H. McCourt Sr., graduated from the university in 1939. One of Frank McCourt Jr.’s four sons, Travis (C’05), is also an alumnus.
The founder, chair and CEO of McCourt Global, a diversified investment firm focusing on real estate, private equity, sports and media, McCourt also chairs the board of the ASICS L.A. Marathon as well as that of ThinkCure, a community-based nonprofit raising funds to accelerate collaborative cancer research.
The ninth current school at Georgetown, MSPP will focus on the use of evolving technology and “big data” to help solve these challenges.
“In the tradition upon which this university is built, we acknowledge that we have a civic commitment to seek the common good,” DeGioia said. “At this moment in our history, we acknowledge our public responsibility with the establishment of this school.”
Reconnecting Policy and People
In an emotional speech, McCourt said 1935 marked the start of “an 80-year love affair between the McCourt Family and Georgetown University.”
“My father instilled in me as a child a reverence for the name Georgetown before I even understood the concept of a university,” McCourt explained. “Since then, three generations of McCourts have become Hoyas and, with the grace of God, that tradition will continue into future generations.”
With his mother, Kay McCourt, in the audience, he recalled how growing up with nine people at the dinner table talking about politics and policy was good preparation for Georgetown.
“When I arrived here at Georgetown, the classroom, my dormitory, the cafeteria, and eventually the entire campus became that dinner table,” he said at the ceremony.
“The circle had expanded but the concept was the same,” the philanthropist said. “I don’t have to explain to any of you here how Georgetown’s Jesuit foundation gives its students, and its graduates, a greater sense of purpose, and a clear recognition that we are here in service to our fellow humans.”
McCourt’s father lived as a freshman in Healy Hall.
“When it is quiet and I listen carefully enough, I can hear his footsteps echoing throughout this quadrangle,” his son explained.
Paul Tagliabue (C’62), the former NFL commissioner who now chairs Georgetown’s board of directors, noted that McCourt’s tenure on the board overlapped with his own service on the board.
He said that it was during a meeting in the 2006-2007 academic year that “the idea of ‘reflective engagement in the public interest’ as an institutional priority was first articulated.”
“We were all impressed by Frank’s enthusiasm for this idea in the ensuing months and years,” Tagliabue said. “He immediately grasped that Georgetown – with its existing strengths in public policy and foreign service, its Catholic and Jesuit ethos and its location in the nation’s capital – could play a unique role.
Tagliabue said implementing “an institutional goal of this magnitude” required foresight, planning and “considerable resources.”
“Thanks to this act of transformative generosity by Frank McCourt, this vision has become a reality with remarkable speed,” he said.
Greater Mark on Society
Edward Montgomery, who led the Georgetown Public Policy Institute that preceded MSPP and will continue to serve as the new school’s dean, called the launch “a proud day in the history of Georgetown.”
“I am honored to lead the McCourt school in our effort to serve the world in a new way through advancements in the study of public policy,” he said.
Montgomery said Georgetown has “some of the most well-respected policy minds in the country both teaching our students and conducting rigorous data driven cutting-edge research on today’s most important policy topics…”
He noted that faculty members at the university are conducting research on the effects of pre-kindergarten education, improving the nation’s health care system and implementing the Affordable Care Act researching the challenges low-skilled workers and young graduates face in today’s labor markets, immigration reform and more.
“With this investment in the future of our school,” he said, “we are poised to expand our reach and make an even greater mark on society.”
Today’s ceremony, part of a two-day launch of the new school, included a community celebration and a private dinner for McCourt and distinguished guests.
The event took place on the steps of Georgetown’s historic Old North steps, from which 14 presidents of the United States have appeared, beginning with George Washington and most recently President Obama.
Tomorrow, Montgomery and E.J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist and Georgetown professor of public policy, will participate in a noon panel discussion on how new advances in technology and communications impact the harnessing and navigating of massive data.
The McCourt School of Public Policy will house the Massive Data Institute, designed to support research and teaching efforts that link to and integrate the next generation of data in ways that deepen public understanding in a wide range of public policy areas.
The institute will use “Big Data” sets to increase understanding of society and human behavior and thus improve public policy decision-making.
Government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Geological Service are already using massive data for the common good – to predict flu and other infectious diseases, earthquake activity and tornado damage.
The Massive Data Institute will take an innovative approach to shaping public policy by taking the data generated by government programs as part of their processes, analyzing it and using the research to implement future program planning.
Georgetown Provost Robert Groves called the foundation of strong quantitative social scientists at MSPP part of the “secret sauce” of the new school.
“The McCourt School is the first public policy school founded after the data revolution that we have all experienced in the last few years,” Groves noted at the ceremony.
He said that the combination of data sources increasing at a rate of 40 percent a year and the continued growth of the Internet have resulted two challenges for public policy schools such as MSPP – how to access and analyze huge data systems for a new wave of policy analysis and how to train the next generation of policy analysts and public policy leaders to use these data sets.
MSPP is designed to accomplish both of these goals.
McCourt said there has “never been a greater need for a new approach to public policy than today” and noted the importance of the Massive Data Institute.
“The difficulties we face are big and they are real,” he explained. “The global, interdisciplinary, data-driven approach of [MSPP] offers the best opportunity to not only create new solutions to age-old policy challenges, but also to the myriad of new challenges that are arising as a result of the technology revolution.”
McCourt Fellows, Center
MSPP will house a McCourt Fellows program, which is designed to attract top students with full scholarships to become the most qualified future policymakers and scholars in the country.
McCourt’s gift is expected to deepen and broaden the core faculty, increasing interdisciplinary appointments and stronger inter-institutional collaboration.
To further engage in dialogue in the Jesuit tradition, the MSPP will include a new Center for Politics and Policy.
Truth to Discover
“This generous act of philanthropy and our long-term partnership with the McCourt family will strengthen and maintain Georgetown’s 225-year tradition of excellence and commitment to public service,” DeGioia said when he announced the gift on Sept. 18.
At the ceremony today, he said, “A commitment to the common good changes everything.”
“It acknowledges that there is truth to be discovered and good to be realized when we engage in this work, together,” the president explained. “This discovery, this realization occurs in dialogue, with one another, and especially with those with whom we disagree.
“If we begin with a commitment to the common good, we might see the challenges of our time differently.”
For more information, read the MSPP announcement press release