Inside Hoovers Inaugural Summer Policy Boot Camp

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Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA

This August the Hoover Institution hosted the inaugural Summer Policy Boot Camp, its first-ever multiday, interdisciplinary policy seminar for students and recent graduates. The Boot Camp was a well-timed first event for Hoover’s David and Joan Traitel Building, which was built with expanding student engagement as a top priority. Taught entirely by Hoover fellows, the Boot Camp offered students a toolkit for thinking critically about public policy and evaluating its results.

Co-organized by David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow Scott W. Atlas and Senior Fellow Joshua D. Rauh, the program included five days of interactive lectures, group discussions, and other programming. Nineteen of Hoover’s leading policy researchers and educators served as faculty, covering tax policy, entitlements, constitutional law, national security, and other key policy areas with perspectives that many students don’t hear on their campuses. Keynote speakers included NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who spoke about leadership, as well as Milbank Family Senior Fellow Niall Ferguson, who discussed the role of historians in academia and policy formulation.

To see the contrast that’s drawn between the way that Hoover does things—very empirical, very evidence based—and the majority of what’s published outside of Hoover was enlightening. It makes me appreciate Hoover that much more.

—Zach, University of California, Berkeley

More than two hundred highly qualified students competed in a rigorous application process for admission to the program. The approximately eighty accepted participants’ had majors ranging from philosophy to nursing to computer science. Their countries of origin spanned the entire globe and they represented numerous highly ranked universities, including seven of the eight Ivy Leagues.

Speaking with fellows informally after lectures and over meals, participating in guided study sessions, and working on honors policy proposals, students deepened their understanding of the course material and learned about affecting policy change through their careers. They also developed professional connections and personal friendships with other bright students from around the world—and had a lot of fun.

It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve made incredible friends, I learned a lot about public policy, and I definitely recommend it to everyone.

—Dani, University of Chicago

It’s so nice to hear out other students who share my same passion for policy and politics and really the application of that in the real world. Combined with the time we got to spend with senior fellows here, it was really an incredible experience.

—Peter, University of California, Irvine

Watching students’ eyes open to new ideas and seeing their excitement as they engaged with Hoover fellows, the Summer Policy Boot Camp proved an exciting preview of things to come in the new David and Joan Traitel Building. Atlas, Rauh, and other Hoover fellows involved in the program look forward to maintaining ties with the inaugural class as they move forward in their careers—and to sharing the Summer Policy Boot Camp experience with new students in years to come.

For more information about the Summer Policy Boot Camp, visit

Summer Policy Boot Camp students are seen walking through Stanford’s historic main quad on arrival day. More than half of the students came from schools on US News & World Report’s “Top 25 National Universities” list; a quarter came from Ivy League schools.
Senior Fellow and Boot Camp co-organizer Joshua D. Rauh, also a professor of finance at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, lectured on “State Budgets: Hidden Debt and Hidden Deficits.” Drawing on his two Hoover Institution reports on the subject, Rauh explained the faulty accounting procedures and revenue projections that mask the true size of public liabilities, as well as the potential risks to future generations.
“The irony of calls to further centralize medicine,” explained David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow Scott W. Atlas during his lecture, is that “it’s a gross failure all over the world.” He closed by sharing a favorite quote from Milton Friedman: “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.
Hoover senior fellow and Stanford economics professor Caroline Hoxby spent much of her two-hour lecture on education policy fielding questions from students. “I can tell there’s a lot of thinking going on in this room,” she told her class.
Students took full advantage of the interactive lecture format, which left plenty of room for questions.
Hoover fellows made themselves available after each session for informal discussions with students. Here Hoover senior fellow and Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Edward P. Lazear answers questions about his talk on economics and tax reform.
Students enjoy a break in the new David and Joan Traitel Building’s Fairweather Courtyard. The Summer Policy Boot Camp was the first event held in the new building, which was built with increasing student engagement as a top priority.
Following their joint lecture on national security, Senior Fellow Stephen D. Krasner and Distinguished Research Fellow Kori Schake asked students to break into groups and formulate an alternative to current US policy toward North Korea. Here Schake sits back as students take turns presenting their proposals.
One of four special lunch and dinner speakers, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young visited the Boot Camp to discuss “Leadership in a Changing World.”
The inaugural class of the Summer Policy Boot Camp stands for a group photo in front of Hoover Tower. Eighty-one students participated in the initial class, culled from an overwhelming response of more than two hundred applicants.
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