McCourt School students in conversation in front of the United States capitol building
Category: Transformative Opportunities

Title:$100M investment in McCourt School advances aspiration to be world’s most inclusive public policy school

‘An extraordinary vision’

This investment doubles down on the commitment Frank McCourt and Georgetown made in 2013 to establish the school—with an initial $100 million gift from McCourt—and to build a powerful force for advancing the common good through teaching, research, and service. That vision was grounded in a belief that tomorrow’s leaders must draw on diverse experiences and perspectives in order to achieve transformational impact.

“With this support, we will be able to come that much closer to realizing our aspiration—that there will be no barrier for pursuing public service,” says Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia. “Frank has articulated an extraordinary vision for this work, deepening our commitment to ethical, inclusive, and impactful public policy for the common good.”

“With this support, we will be able to come that much closer to realizing our aspiration—that there will be no barrier for pursuing public service. Frank has articulated an extraordinary vision for this work, deepening our commitment to ethical, inclusive, and impactful public policy for the common good.”

—Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia

McCourt notes that Georgetown’s focus on inclusion and equity aligns with the goals of Unfinished, a new enterprise he founded in 2020 dedicated to strengthening civic life in the digital age.

“Society is facing bigger challenges than ever before, making it essential that the people tasked with solving these challenges are not only well trained, but also represent the backgrounds and experiences of our full society,” says Frank McCourt. “Too often, the people most impacted by problems like economic inequality or extractive technology aren’t at the policy-making table. With this funding, the McCourt School can open its doors more widely and build a pipeline of future public policy leaders that reflects the true diversity of our communities. Our ambition is to one day eliminate all financial barriers to a McCourt education.”

Strengthening the pipeline of diverse talent

The McCourt School seeks to reduce the student loan debt that too often precludes public service. By directing $50 million of his investment to financial aid and scholarships for McCourt School students, Frank McCourt is making a critical down payment on the effort to reduce the financial barriers to a policy education.

“Our dream and our goal for the McCourt School is that every student will be able to graduate and enter public service careers without the burden of loans,” McCourt says.

“A school of public policy is a collection of people who believe that the critical problems we face can only be solved through working together,” says McCourt School Dean Maria Cancian, adding that tomorrow’s leaders must recognize our interdependence so they can work across differences to solve intractable problems.

And they must come from a wide array of backgrounds and perspectives, to ensure diversity of thought and experience, emphasizes Cancian. “It’s absolutely critical for the McCourt School to have people from urban and rural environments, to have people who are conservative and progressive, to have people who come from a variety of lived experience, to have people who are from underrepresented racial and ethnic communities.

“Having greater financial aid will both allow us to attract a broader set of students, and also allow us to graduate students with the ability to go out and work for the common good,” Cancian adds.

Most immediately, Frank McCourt’s investment in the McCourt School will enable participants in the National Urban Fellows (NUF) program to attend tuition-free in the 2021-22 academic year. In 2018, the McCourt School was selected as the sole academic home of the 50-year-old NUF graduate program dedicated to developing mid-career professionals, especially people of color, to be leaders and change agents in the public and nonprofit sectors. In August 2020, the NUF-McCourt School partnership graduated its first cohort of Master of Policy Management students—overwhelmingly first-generation college graduates.

Given what the McCourt School is striving to accomplish when it comes to accessibility and service to others, the National Urban Fellows Program is a natural partner to drive that mission forward, says Lisa Rawlings, the program’s president and CEO. “This partnership has been wonderful in that we’re both aligned philosophically with a strong commitment to social justice; we both have strong beliefs in inclusion.”

With the new investment, the McCourt School looks forward to deepening its collaboration with NUF and other organizations that share Georgetown’s dedication to building a pipeline of changemakers across the many dimensions of diversity.

Since its founding, the school has forged a number of partnerships with institutions such as Howard University, Lead for America, COLFUTURO, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of which strengthen McCourt classrooms with a diversity of perspective and lived experience.

“All these people, who come with different sets of experiences and contribute in different ways, have amazing interactions both inside the classroom and outside the classroom that really enrich everything that we do,” Cancian says, adding that the school looks forward to identifying additional collaborators.

Elevating expertise and impact

Students at the McCourt School unlock their diverse talents and prepare for critical problem-solving roles with the mentorship and expertise of the McCourt School’s vibrant community of policy scholars and practitioners.

Since 2013, the McCourt School has expanded its faculty by 35 percent, bringing on first-rate teachers, cutting-edge researchers, and leading voices on critical topics such as economics, public management, environmental justice, racial justice, housing security, and environmental economics.

With Frank McCourt’s investment—which includes $50 million to support faculty expertise and research—the McCourt School will maintain this growth trajectory across the next decade, ultimately doubling its faculty.

“The greatest gift we offer our students is time with our faculty,” says DeGioia. “Frank’s new investment strengthens the context for our faculty to pursue their work: to study and shape policy at every level.”

The investment will enable the McCourt School to build more bridges from research to practice, from evidence to action, from the university’s work to the communities it serves, from individual effort to collective action, and from great challenges to lasting solutions.

Welcoming additional voices is paramount to the McCourt School’s next chapter, says Associate Professor James Habyarimana, whose research focuses on improving health and education outcomes in developing countries. “We would like to get as many perspectives as possible as the school engages even more deeply with complex, global public policy challenges,” he says.

An ambitious agenda for the future

“This has been the greatest moment in the history of our work in public policy, and now we’re going to be able to take it that much further,” says DeGioia.

At this critical juncture, at the center of the policy world, at the center of U.S. democracy, the new investment sets the McCourt School on a path to realize its ambition.

“I’m hugely optimistic about the McCourt School and Georgetown’s role in the world,” McCourt says. “I’m very excited about the commitment to inclusion. I’m very excited about the commitment to being a school known for its impact. Watching the McCourt School’s evolution has been a source of great joy to me.”