When Jackie Berger *96 first sent David Carroll *84 her cover letter and resume, she was met with crickets.
Carroll says it must have been a busy time because he doesn’t remember ever getting her letter, which she sent during the final year of her economics Ph.D. after hearing him speak at an event about careers outside of academia.
“Fortunately, I got a second shot at talking to Jackie and hiring her,” Carroll says.
Berger reached out again a year after her initial letter and the two met and had a great conversation. Then, another year after that, she joined Carroll at a survey and market research company called Response Analysis, where they worked together for the next four years. As the company went through several mergers and acquisitions with larger survey and market research companies, though, they started to feel like they didn’t really fit in.
Berger and Carroll shared an interest in social policy and found that their studies, while quite different, were also complimentary. Berger developed strong technical, mathematical, and analytical skills during her doctoral work in economics, while Carroll was more focused on how programs, policies, and governmental actions were put together through his graduate work in the School of Public and International Affairs. They were both more interested in research and evaluation work, so they decided to leave their jobs and go off on their own.
In late 2002, they founded a research institute called APPRISE — Applied Public Policy Research Institute for Study and Evaluation. Carroll and Berger originally thought they might focus the organization’s work on a variety of issue areas, but their previous forays in the energy sector ultimately directed the focus of APPRISE toward energy efficiency, renewable energy (primarily solar), and energy bill payment assistance programs for low-income households. The organization has worked with nonprofits, utility companies, federal and state governments, and agencies.
They said their work is more akin to consulting and doesn’t cross a line into advocacy. “The mission of APPRISE is to furnish public policy makers and program managers with the information that they need to make good decisions about operating effective programs,” Carroll says.
Berger adds: “We’re apprising them of what they need to know.”
As a nonprofit, Carroll says that APPRISE’s mission is not to maximize shareholder value. Their fund balance — the money a nonprofit has left over after expenses have been paid — is used to conduct independent pro bono research in the field, which can then be used to help clients in moving their projects forward.
With their offices located above the Lululemon shop on Nassau Street, the two alumni aren’t far from the University that first helped them connect. It’s also clear that the University’s informal motto — “in the nation’s service and the service of humanity” — plays a role in their work every day.
“What’s really important to me is that I think that the work that we’re doing is extremely important,” Berger says. That work has run the gamut from researching how to ensure low-income families can afford to heat and cool their homes in a safe and healthy way, to addressing climate change by working with large programs that help residential, commercial, and industrial customers reduce greenhouse gases.
“Over time it just seems that our work has become more and more relevant,” Carroll says, adding that energy issues “haven’t always been at the forefront of public policy but they certainly are today, and so we’re happy to be part of that and we’re happy to make our contributions.”