Randomize all the things: grad school and junior faculty posts edition

This morning’s thought experiment is inspired by a recent conversation with a few colleagues about grad school. These particular colleagues went to a certain snooty uptown Manhattan institution; I went someplace a bit more downtown (but, frankly, still pretty snooty).

Here’s the problem: Whenever I give advice to young professionals on career paths and grad school, my evidence base is limited to my own experience and these sorts of conversations with friends or colleagues. Basically it’s only observational, anecdotal, and potentially idiosyncratic. But today’s aspiring development practitioners demand evidence-based educational decisions.

Therefore, I would like to propose a randomized control trial for development education: take a cohort of incoming graduate students, randomly assign them to a set of MPA programs, and then track their career progress, debt levels, and general life satisfaction in the years following. I wonder if Harvard’s Kennedy School, Columbia’s SIPA, NYU’s Wagner, and Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School would go for that? I wonder if any students would?

Even more fun: Let’s randomize the randomistas. Take doctoral students who are utilizing RCT methods in their dissertation research, and randomly assign them to post-doc positions or junior faculty posts.