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Justice, Fairness, Inclusion, and Performance.

Fellow Spotlight: Rakesh Mohan

Fellow Spotlight: Rakesh Mohan

Rakesh Mohan is the director of Idaho’s legislative Office of Performance Evaluations (OPE). He has led the legislature’s independent, nonpartisan evaluation office for 21 years. During this period, OPE conducted studies that have helped the state improve its services and accountability and save millions of tax dollars in unnecessary expenditures. OPE recommendations have assisted policy makers with some of their major policy and budget decisions in child welfare, health, education, and transportation.

Who or what inspired you to enter into public service?

My parents and teachers instilled in me the importance of public service while I was growing up in India. They taught me that each of us is responsible for performing public service to the best of our abilities. That meant doing something for the common good and making a difference in people's lives.

My American journey began about 48 years ago when I left India for the USA to work on my PhD in chemistry. When I couldn’t complete my PhD, I was left with two options – either go back to India as a failure or somehow struggle and survive in this country. Going back was not an option because I would have brought shame to my family. I decided to struggle in this country. Fortunately, I found a job as a chemist with the state of Kansas. While working as a chemist, I completed my master’s degree in public administration at the University of Kansas.

After eight years, I transitioned from chemistry to public administration. Since 1988, I have worked as a performance auditor/evaluator for state legislatures in Kansas, Louisiana, Washington, and Idaho.

Over the years, my ideas of public service have been inspired by the writings and lives of my heroes – Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jayaprakash Narayan, and Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

What advice would you give to those interested in pursuing public policy or public administration as a career?

My advice would be the same as what I received from my mentors Eleanor Chelimsky and George Grob: trust and humility are critical in public service.

What area of public policy interests you the most and why?

I am most interested in public policies that affect the most vulnerable segments of our society, because how well we treat them reflects our collective core values. In the early 1980s, a close friend of mine, Earl Desch, convinced me of this reasoning through his actions and daily living.

What is your favorite cuisine?

I enjoy all kinds of vegetarian cuisine, especially Indian, Thai, Mexican, and Middle Eastern.

What is your favorite hobby or activity that you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy experimenting with cooking, especially the challenge of not following recipes or measuring ingredients. I also enjoy photography.

Who in your life has been an influential mentor or inspiration for you?

My American journey of nearly half a century would have not been possible without the friendship and kind support of many wonderful people, including the late Eleanor Chelimsky, an eminent scholar and evaluator who was the first director of the Program Evaluation and Methodology Division at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and George Grob, the former Deputy Inspector General for Evaluation and Inspections at the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to teaching me how to manage the politics of evaluation, they both taught me about the value of trust and humility in public service.

What was your dream job as a child?

To teach at a university is a dream job that I hope to have when I retire.

									 Mohan 2020
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