An economist helms the Ateneo School of Government
For the first time since its inauguration 20 years ago, the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) will not have a law maker (founding Dean Congresswoman Henedina Abad) or a lawyer-cum environmental policy expert (Dr. Antonio La Viña) taking charge. Change is indeed coming.
For the next 3 years, an economist will take ASoG’s helm. The newly appointed Dean, Dr. Ronald U. Mendoza, is a well traveled development professional. He has an extensive background in international development policy and international cooperation, with a resume that includes work with the United Nations (UN), the Asian Institute of Management and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
He has collaborated with government officials, academics, and representatives of the private and not-for-profit sectors to advance reforms that could improve human development, reduce poverty and provoke more inclusive over-all economic and political development.
Likewise, Mendoza has carried out research, technical assistance engagements and missions to developing countries including Ethiopia, Mongolia, Senegal, Thailand, Turkey, Kyrgyz Republic, and Ukraine. Before joining Ateneo, he was also an Associate Professor of Economics at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), where he concurrently served as Executive Director of the AIM Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness. Working with a team of young researchers in AIM, he crafted and managed policy research on development issues relevant to ASEAN and the Philippines.
Together with Ateneo researchers, he co-authored a notable study on the impact of political dynasties on poverty and underdevelopment in the Philippine countryside. He also worked with Ateneo, La Salle, UP and an international group of researchers on Building Inclusive Democracies in ASEAN (Anvil Press 2015) which won the Outstanding Book Award for 2016 of the National Academy of Science and Technology.
A true-blue Atenean from elementary to college, Mendoza’s foray into the work force was at the Ateneo.
“Two weeks after finishing my degree in Economics at Ateneo, my first job was with our Economics department teaching part time and working on research projects on the side,” he says. The experience, he adds, helped him practice and sharpen his understanding of Economics. “Eventually, I realized that I could be a better teacher if I spent time as a practitioner in my field.”
He went to the United States to pursue graduate studies – obtaining a PhD in Economics from Fordham University (2008), a Master’s in Public Administration and International Development from the Kennedy School, Harvard University (2001), and a Masters in Economics from Fordham University (1998).
While in the US, he started to build a his career in international development policy and research. He was a teaching fellow at Harvard University’s John F Kennedy School of Government and an adjunct professor of the Economics department at Fordham University. He later joined the UN, working on international development policy issues notably in countries in Central Asia and Africa.
“I worked with government officials, civil society, academics, and other professionals in almost a decade of service with the UN. My main focus was on supporting evidence-based development policy and public administration,” he says. The experience, he notes, bodes well in his new mission as the dean of ASoG.
“I think this kind of international experience in development work and policy research could be useful in any school of public policy and administration. Further, the Ateneo’s emphasis on empowering the marginalized also coheres well with the mandate of the UN on promoting sustainable development, reducing poverty and strengthening inclusive growth and development,” Mendoza says.
His economics background comes in handy in running a school that focuses on governance.
“Economics, public policy, and public administration are related in important ways. First of all, the tools one masters in Economics are quite useful in applied public policy and administration. For example, optimization, trade theory and policy, debt management, and monitoring and evaluation are among the many areas that are relevant to running and managing a modern state and market economy,” he says.
Mendoza believes that the challenge now, especially for schools of government and public administration, is to be at the forefront of advancing reforms in inclusive development and helping “build a modern and capable state.”
“ASoG is expected to contribute not just to our nation’s but also to international thought leadership. It will take resources combined with talented and dedicated staff to bring ASoG to the next level. ASOG already has a strong track record of policy engagement, often leading in key areas such as sustainable development, good governance, political reforms and anti-corruption. I am excited about our future,” Mendoza says.