New center will be hub for social-scientific issues, with research that will inform policymaking locally and nationally

SMU’s John G. Tower Center for Political Studies and the Dallas-based Latino Center for Leadership Development announced a strategic new academic policy institute at SMU Sept. 15. Speakers were, from left, Thomas DiPiero, dean of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Jorge Baldor, Latino Center founder and SMU alumnus; Joshua Rovner, acting director of SMU’s Tower Center; and Miguel Solis, Latino Center.

SMU’s John G. Tower Center for Political Studies and the Dallas-based Latino Center for Leadership Development announced a strategic new academic policy institute at SMU Sept. 15. Speakers were, from left, Thomas DiPiero, dean of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Jorge Baldor, Latino Center founder and SMU alumnus; Joshua Rovner, acting director of SMU’s Tower Center; and Miguel Solis, Latino Center. (Hillsman Jackson)

SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies has formed a strategic academic partnership with the Latino Center for Leadership Development, Latino CLD.

The new Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Program will identify and implement policy-focused solutions to the Latino community’s most pressing concerns, from educational and economic opportunities, to voting rights and immigration reform, to the under-representation of Latinos in elected and appointed roles at the federal, state and local levels, as well as corporate boards.

As part of the unique partnership, the Latino CLD will provide SMU’s Tower Center with $900,000 over five years. The funding will allow the new policy program to attract and engage scholars and thought leaders in an interdisciplinary think-tank, creating a framework to analyze and develop policy priorities, provide public forums and outreach, and support greater understanding and influence for the Latino community.

“America is in the midst of a fundamental, Latino-driven demographic shift,” said Latino CLD founder and SMU alumnus Jorge Baldor, citing Pew Research Center reports that Latinos will represent about 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2060.

“With the growing number of Latinos comes a reciprocal responsibility to lead,” Baldor said. “Latino CLD is focused on developing the next generation of those leaders.”

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said research from the institute will inform policymaking locally and nationwide.

“I’m pleased the Latino Center for Leadership Development and SMU are joining forces for a premier Latino policy program,” Rawlings said. “The research it produces will be an asset for policy makers, allowing for in-depth analysis and creation of policies that will improve the lives of people across Texas and throughout the nation.”

SMU is becoming a major presence in Latino-focused research and education, said Thomas DiPiero, dean of Dedman College.

“It’s also a propitious moment to bring new expertise and scholarship to bear both nationally and locally,” DiPiero said, noting the Dallas-Fort Worth region, with 7 million people, is the nation’s fourth-largest population center, and growing rapidly.

“Looking ahead, the success of this program will allow SMU and the Latino CLD to contribute vital public policy research while based in DFW — a U.S. political and economic center of gravity with strong global connections,” DiPiero said.

The Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Program will work in three major areas:

  • Provide influential voices and data to support research on policy issues
  • Offer two-year appointments for postdoctoral scholars who will research and publish their findings on public policy issues
  • Provide research grants and public seminars to promote stronger community understanding and dialogue about key societal issues

The relationship between the new SMU policy program and Latino CLD also will allow promising leaders, such as those within the Latino CLD’s new Leadership Academy, “to develop as individuals and hone network skills necessary to assume positions of influence” while focused on policy and politics to help people from all spectrums of society, Baldor said.

“The Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Program will provide an excellent opportunity to combine our expertise to focus on contemporary policy matters of major interest to this country’s diverse, growing Latino community,” said Joshua Rovner, director of studies at the Tower Center in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

“As a hub for social-scientific issues, we will play a major role in cutting through the cacophony of numbers related to the Latino community, letting us take big issues and quickly drill down to ideas for thoughtful solutions and policy implementation,” Rovner said.

The announcement of the new policy program came on the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month and follows on the heels of the Tower Center’s Sept. 8 launch of its new Texas-Mexico Program during Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s historic visit to Mexico. — Denise Gee

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

In the spirit of John Tower’s commitment to educate and inspire a new generation of thoughtful leaders, the Tower Center seeks to bridge the gap between the world of ideas, scholarship and teaching, as well as the practice of politics. The primary mission of the Tower Center is to promote the study of politics and international affairs and to stimulate an interest in ethical public service among undergraduates. The Tower Center is an academic center where all parties and views are heard in a marketplace of ideas, and the Center pursues its mission in a non-partisan manner.

Latino CLD is a privately funded foundation with a vision of developing future leaders with an understanding of Latino-focused policies and actionable items for solutions resulting from such partnerships as the Latino CLD–SMU Tower Center Policy Institute.

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