A former acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the current chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison will receive this year’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize from the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Economist Rebecca Blank becomes the eighth recipient of the prize, which is intended to honor those who, like the late Senator Moynihan, have promoted the use of sound analysis and social science research in policy-making, while contributing to the civil discourse in society.
Blank’s career has long bridged the academic and policy worlds, although that isn’t always recognized. “I have colleagues who know my research well and know me as an economist; I have colleagues who know my policy work and government service well,” Blank was quoted in a release from her university. “But these worlds are often separate. This award brings them together, recognizing my contributions in both areas. That’s incredibly gratifying.”
She served at Commerce from 2009 to 2013, starting as undersecretary for economic affairs, then deputy secretary and lastly acting secretary of the cabinet agency with 45,000 employees and a budget that tops $10 billion. Before becoming a civil servant she had been a fellow at the Brookings Institution and before that was dean and professor of public policy and economics in the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy for nine years until 2008. During the Bill Clinton administration she spent two years on his Council of Economic Advisers and had also been on the faculty of Northwestern and Princeton universities.
Blank has been a member of a number of professional and academic organizations in the economics, social science and policy arenas, including stings as a member of the National Research Council’s Division Committee for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) from 2003 to 2008, presidency of the Association and Public Policy Analysis and management in 2007, and even being inducted as an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow by AAPSS in 2010.
“What she’s done over the course of her career is exactly what the prize stands for,” said AAPSS Executive Director Tom Kecskemethy. “She’s both a distinguished scholar and active public servant and someone who really connects the dots between the two.”
Past Moynihan honorees have included Joseph Stiglitz, William Julius Wilson, Alice Rivlin and Diane Ravitch. As part of the prize ceremony, Blank will give a public lecture on May 7 in Washington, D.C.