The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Dean John A. Hird


John A. Hird received his Ph.D. in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and served as a research fellow at the Brookings Institution in 1987-89 and economist with the President’s Council of Economic Advisers in 1988-89.  He has served as Dean of SBS since April 2014. A faculty member at UMass Amherst since 1989, Hird is Professor of Public Policy.  He was the founding director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration (now the School of Public Policy) and the master’s program in public policy and administration from 1998 to 2006. Hird chaired the Department of Political Science from 2006-11 when he was appointed Associate Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. In 2012, he was appointed Senior Associate Dean.

His most recent research focuses on the use of expertise in public policymaking. Hird is the author of several books, including Superfund: The Political Economy of Environmental Risk; Power, Knowledge, and Politics: Policy Analysis in the States; and Controversies in American Public Policy. He is editor of Controversies in Globalization; and Policy Analysis in the United States, part of an international series. Hird has published articles in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Policy Studies Journal, Yale Journal on Regulation, Social Science Quarterly, Regulation & Governance, and other professional journals.

His work in helping to better connect the world of expertise to policymaking is motivated by improving upon processes exemplified by the following reflection:

I think it’s vital to de-professionalize the public debate on matters that vitally affect the lives of ordinary people. It’s time to snatch our futures back from the ‘experts’. . . . Frankly, however trenchantly, however angrily, however combatively one puts forward one’s case, at the end of the day, I’m only a citizen, one of many, who is demanding public information, asking for a public explanation. I have no axe to grind. I have no professional stakes to protect. I’m prepared to be persuaded. I’m prepared to change my mind. But instead of an argument, or an explanation, or a disputing of facts, one gets insults, invective, legal threats, and the Expert’s Anthem: “You’re too emotional. You don’t understand, and it’s too complicated to explain.” The subtext, of course, is: Don’t worry your little head about it. Go and play with your toys. Leave the real world to us. (Arundhati Roy, Power Politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2001, pp. 24-5)

Improving the relationship between expertise and policymaking enhances policymaking and improves democracy.

Contact Information

John A. Hird
Dean, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences

Professor of Public Policy
230 Draper Hall - 40 Campus Center Way
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA, 01003 USA
Phone: 413.545.7187
Fax: 413.545.3349