Sarah L. Stafford, the Paul R. Verkuil Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, Economics, and Law, assumed leadership of the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy at the College of William & Mary on July 1.
Stafford received her Bachelor of Science degree in foreign service from Georgetown University in 1990 and her doctorate in economics from the Johns Hopkins University in 1998, the same year in which she joined the William & Mary faculty.
For the past three years, she also has served as the Jefferson Program's graduate studies coordinator. Her teaching interests include law and economics, regulation, environmental economics and industrial organization. Stafford's research focuses on the effect of environmental regulations on industry behavior. She also currently holds a joint appointment with the William & Mary Law School, where she teaches a course on regulation and team-teaches a course in law and economics.
"I love that our master's program has such a strong focus on law. We are one of the few programs that really incorporates law classes into our MPP degree. And both the graduate and undergraduate programs have a strong quantitative component, which speaks to the economist in me," Stafford said. She added that she believes it is important for public policy programs to convey to their students the value of using well-developed evidence to foster positive changes. She recalled a sign she saw during the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, D.C.; it read: "What do we want? Evidence-based change. When do we want it? After peer review."
"That, to me, epitomizes what people in public policy programs should have as their objective," she said. "I think Abraham Lincoln had it right when he said, 'I'm a firm believer in the people. If given the truth they can be depended on to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts.'" This is a great theme for our public policy students. What we want them to do is use solidly developed evidence to make positive changes."
The Jefferson Program was established in 1987 and is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2012. Stafford is just the program's fourth director. She succeeds Eric Jensen, professor of economics, in the post. He served as the director for eight years. Jensen, who joined the College's faculty in 1982, assumed a new post as provost of Hamline University in Minnesota.
"I feel very lucky to be taking over the program from Eric. He has done an amazing job increasing the quality of the program and providing a solid financial base to build on," Stafford said. "We've got great students and a very dedicated core faculty, and I look forward to leading the program into the future."