Rutgers Helping Shape Policy for New Administration

Rutgers Helping Shape Policy for New Administration

Obama transition team taps experience of university's scholars

President-elect Barack Obama is mining the talents of Rutgers faculty and staff as he crafts national policy for his administration.

The academics, from all three campuses of the state university, represent such diverse fields as history, communications, law, economics and management. They include a longtime history professor and community activist who is overseeing the transition for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH); and the director of the Sloan Center on Innovative Training and Workforce Development, who has been asked to provide a memo on online training and the expansion of broadband access, particularly in rural areas.

Between Obama’s election on Nov. 5 and his inauguration on Jan. 20, Ellen Goodman, Heather McKay, Clement Price, William M. Rodgers III and Jorge Reina Schement have been involved at various levels with the transition. The academics share a sense of optimism about the coming four years and a deep respect for the process in which they have been involved.

Price, Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of History at Rutgers-Newark, called the NEH “a public trust that is committed to a broad and deep investment in public knowledge.” The longtime Newark resident said he expects President Obama to continue its mission despite the stressed economic climate.

Schement, dean of Rutgers' School of Communication, Information and Library Studies and an expert on the social consequences of the production and consumption of information, said, “I felt honored and excited to be asked to participate in what I see as one of the great presidencies of my time.”

Having worked with presidential administrations going back to President Jimmy Carter, Schement was asked to contribute three short papers focusing on universal service policy as related to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Schement is particularly concerned with policy as it relates to ethnic minorities and access.

Goodman, a professor at the Rutgers School of Law-Camden, also has been working with the group that is dealing with FCC matters, specifically in areas regarding the upcoming digital-television conversion process. That transition, mandated by Congress, will go into effect Feb. 17 unless it is delayed by several months, which the transition team has advocated. Goodman also advised on technology innovation, including broadband deployment and public media reform.

At Rutgers, Goodman specializes in the law of information technology, including telecommunications and intellectual property. Calling her participation in the transition both fulfilling and interesting, the professor said she plans to invite some of her fellow transition participants from around the country to address her law school students next year.

McKay, director of the Sloan Center at the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, co-wrote a paper for the Communications Workers of America on the use of online training as a mechanism for workforce development. The Obama transition team approached her and co-author Eileen Appelbaum, professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations, to condense their research for a paper to be presented to the new policymakers.

The memo suggested ways the Internet can enable adult learners to access skills and training they need to find jobs in a faltering economy.

“I’m thrilled, because this is something Rutgers University has been working on for many years,” McKay said. “It’s very positive that the administration thinks online training is a good idea, especially in these economic times, and that it will become a priority in this administration. All the work we have been doing is coming to fruition, and others are embracing it.”

Rodgers, who served as chief economist with the U.S. Department of Labor under President Bill Clinton, is advising the incoming labor secretary on the economic downturn and its impact on workers. He also conducted reviews of the Bureau of Labor statistics. A professor and chief economist with Rutgers’ John Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rodgers works with Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s Commission on Government Efficiency.

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