Monday, September 30, 2013
President’s Residence

I am pleased and honored to welcome you to the President’s Residence for this lovely—and important—reception.

As a state university, our public mission is paramount.  We also recognize that in our strategic planning, a pillar of which is “Better Futures for Iowans.” I can think of no better way of providing for that better future than working directly with our state’s leaders—which the Public Policy Center has been proudly doing for a quarter century now.

The Public Policy Center was started 25 years ago by Professor David Forkenbrock, a faculty member in Urban and Regional Planning. His vision saw the benefit of having University of Iowa scholars assist policy makers in making evidence-based decisions—bringing the talents of university researchers to bear on the public good. The center was originally focused on transportation, but it has now grown to have six major areas of policy research—health, human factors and vehicle safety, transportation, housing and land use, the environment, and social science research. Today, faculty and research staff from all across campus are engaged in research and engagement activities at the Public Policy Center, and they inform state policy makers about everything from teen driving safety to transportation financing.

Special programming plays an important part in the center’s public outreach as well. The PPC engages the public and policy makers by sharing the research and expertise of UI scholars and other national and international experts through speakers and symposia as part of the Forkenbrock Series on Public Policy. And the center conducts a Legislative Lunch and Learn Series annually, bringing experts from UI to the state’s capital during the legislative session.

While our first and foremost university commitment is to the citizens of the state of Iowa, we of course are also a national—and international—university in scope and influence. Likewise, while state-focused, the Public Policy Center’s reach is also wide and far. The center’s research activities and its influence extend nationally and internationally from Chile to India to Sweden.

Not only are the Public Policy Center’s services enjoyed statewide and across the country and globe, but they also support our campus in important ways. The Iowa Social Science Research Center actively assists researchers across campus in getting research grants and helping them collect data for projects. And over 50 students are funded each year on projects conducted by the Public Policy Center—clearly a valuable learning experience that helps ensure student success.

In its twenty-fifth year, the Public Policy Center has demonstrated how quickly it has grown and how essential it is to our campus. In the past year, the center has collaborated with scholars from all colleges on research or public engagement activities. It’s research funding amounts to an impressive $10 million in grants and contracts. And those sources of funding are very diverse—the Public Policy Center receives support from the NIH, the NSF, state agencies, foundations, and industry. And PPC faculty and research staff are productive.  In the past year, they have published 26 journal articles, 9 research reports, 4 book chapters, and numerous abstracts. These varied and robust activities allow the center to employ 55 students, providing another kind of wonderful educational experience.

The contemporary idea of “public engagement” in the university setting aligns and interweaves an institution’s teaching, research, and service missions for public benefit. The Public Policy Center exemplifies that spirit of engagement wonderfully and serves as a model for all of us across campus to follow. The center has been a public engagement leader for 25 years, and we wish it many more decades of success in learning, discovery, and engagement.

I thank Pete Damiano for his superb leadership as Director of the Public Policy Center, as well as all the talent, hard work, and dedication of the center’s staff and affiliates. And I thank you for joining us this evening as we honor the Public Policy Center for a quarter-century of excellence.