Erik Godwin

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Erik Godwin

Lecturer in Public Policy

Issues with clear answers don’t keep policymakers up at night, Erik Godwin says. It’s the tough issues with no right or wrong answer that make professional life difficult and engaging for policymakers and advisers.

Erik Godwin knows all too well the difficult decisions that policy analysts are sometimes faced with, having spent the first part of his career working in the field.

After college, Godwin started out as a consultant to both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice. He went on to work in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget, where he was the principal White House regulatory analyst on policies involving energy, pesticides, radiation, and indoor air in the Clinton administration. He also spent six years as an executive branch lobbyist on environmental, energy and health issues.

“The issues that keep you up at night are not the issues that have a right answer and a wrong answer. The issues that keep you up at night are those where there is no right answer — and really tough policy problems have that characteristic,” Godwin said.

It was those tough decisions that drove Godwin to academia in the hopes of training future analysts to think through the dilemmas that he once faced. Following four years at Texas A&M University as an assistant professor of political science and policy, Godwin joins the Brown faculty as a lecturer in public policy in the Taubman Center. Godwin said he couldn’t be more excited to begin working and sharing his knowledge and professional experience with students.

“The applied work is why I came here. I don’t want our students to ever have that moment where they ask, ‘Why did I do that?’ That’s what’s exciting about training. That’s what makes it worthwhile.”

Like many of the students he’ll be teaching, Godwin first became interested in policy when he realized he wanted to help solve certain public problems but couldn’t, because he didn’t know how. At the time, he was completing post-baccalaureate work in environmental economics at Oxford University and had been looking at issues related to transportation and the environment.

“I realized that I did not have the necessary training to go after those problems in a rigorous way. They were policy problems,” Godwin said.

That search led him to the University of Michigan, where he completed a master’s in public policy and shortly thereafter began his work in government. Godwin later went on to earn a Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.

Despite his switch to academia, Godwin continues to keep his hand in the professional sector, consulting for federal agencies on regulatory policy, cost-benefit analysis, environmental policy, budgetary systems, and strategic information control.

Godwin also recently completed a book, co-authored with Kenneth Godwin and Scott H. Ainsworth, titled Lobbying and Policymaking: The Public Pursuit of Private Interests, which looks at regulatory policy with a heavy emphasis on environmental policy.

No doubt, that information will come in handy in the environmental policy class Godwin is scheduled to teach this fall. He’ll also be teaching a class on state and local policy, another of his professed interests that Godwin hopes to expand upon as he learns more about the Ocean State.

“I would like to become involved in state and local policies throughout New England and particularly within Rhode Island. The regulatory, environmental, and social capital investment issues are critical to the long-term success of the region. I hope to help where I can.”

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