University of Wisconsin–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, who is tenured in the La Follette School, has been named the 2015 winner of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize by the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Named after the late senator, the Moynihan Prize honors individuals who use sound analysis and social science research to inform public policy while contributing to the public discourse on society's most pressing issues.
"I am deeply honored by this award," Blank says. "The AAPSS is a long-established organization. It brings together some of the top scholars in the social sciences. To be on the list of winners for this award is an enormous compliment from my colleagues."
"We are thrilled that Becky's accomplishments in her social policy and economic research and her public service are receiving such recognition," says La Follette School director Susan Yackee.
Past winners include Joseph Stiglitz, University Professor at Columbia University and 2001 Nobel Prize winner; William Julius Wilson, the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University; Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve; and Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at New York University and former assistant secretary of education.
"This prize is a great honor," says La Follette School professor Tim Smeeding, former director of the Institute for Research on Poverty. "Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a key figure in academia and government for decades –a true public intellectual. Becky has all the same qualities that Pat possessed."
"We're thrilled that Dr. Blank is this year's winner," says AAPSS Executive Director Tom Kecskemethy. "What she's done over the course of her career is exactly what the prize stands for. She's both a distinguished scholar and active public servant and someone who really connects the dots between the two."
This is Blank's second award from the AAPSS — in 2010, she was inducted as an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow in recognition of her distinguished scholarship in the social sciences.
Blank become chancellor at UW–Madison in 2013. From 2009 to 2013, Blank served in top positions at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She started as under secretary for economic affairs, and then was named deputy secretary and acting secretary of the agency, managing nearly 45,000 employees and a $10 billion budget. During her time at the agency, Blank not only led a large and complex organization, she also worked to promote economic development with an emphasis on connecting research and innovation with job creation and economic growth.
Blank's career in public service extends beyond her time at the agency. She was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers from 1997 to 1999 during the Clinton administration, and she was also a fellow at the Brookings Institution before joining the Department of Commerce. From 1999 to 2008, Blank served as dean and professor of public policy and economics in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and she has held faculty positions at Northwestern University and Princeton University. Blank's dedication to informed policymaking, as demonstrated by her research, teaching and public service, aligns with the spirit and intention of the Moynihan Prize, the AAPSS says in a statement.
"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 says. "But these worlds are often separate. This award brings them together, recognizing my contributions in both areas. That's incredibly gratifying."
During her time in D.C., Blank met Moynihan only once, but the man and his work left a lasting impression.
"He was someone who I've long admired as a politician — a strong intellect with a great deal of pragmatic political judgment," Blank says. "He really helped set the agenda on a number of issues."
As part of the Prize ceremony, Blank will give a public lecture May 7 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.