LBJ School of Public Affairs Center for Politics and Governance Opens with $1 Million Grant from AT&T

Sept. 21, 2007

AUSTIN, Texas—The LBJ School of Public Affairs and the AT&T Foundation, the philanthropic arm of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), announced today the opening of the Center for Politics and Governance (CPG), with AT&T, a longtime supporter of The University of Texas System, providing a $1 million foundational grant to start the Center.

The Center officially opens today, Friday Sept. 21, with its inaugural conference, “The Future is Now: the Hispanic Impact on American Politics and Government.”

The new Center at The University of Texas at Austin is dedicated to producing leaders and ideas that improve the political process and governance through education, research and engagement with candidates, office holders, the media, business and community leaders.

Former U.S. Congressman Henry D. Bonilla (R-Texas) and State Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) are slated to join William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin; James Steinberg, dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs; Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior vice president for external and legislative affairs; Dr. Paul Stekler, the Centennial Professor in Communication; and the Honorable Veronica Vargas Stidvent, director of the Center for Politics and Governance, for the Center’s opening press conference.

"The Center for Politics and Governance will play a crucial role in the future of the LBJ School,” Steinberg said. “It will bring together scholars and practitioners, from government, the media, business and community groups, to craft innovative approaches to make sure that the best policy ideas have a chance to be implemented in the real world. At a time when the public and government officials are demanding an end to polarization and gridlock, and are looking for new leadership to pull our communities and our country together, the Center will light a path to make our political system more responsive to urgent needs of our time."

Powers added, “We are very grateful to the AT&T Foundation for the generous gift to help establish the new Center for Politics and Governance. The Foundation’s partnership with the LBJ School of Public Affairs will create a public forum for the study and discussion of the most challenging political issues of our time.  We expect this research center to give voice to a diverse new generation of political leaders who will transform the landscape of American politics in the coming decades.”  

“The Center for Politics and Governance will prepare the students of today to become the leaders of tomorrow,” said Cicconi. “At AT&T, we can think of no investment that is more important.”

Stidvent, in becoming the Center’s first director, said, “This is an exciting new opportunity to develop a Center with the potential to combine theoretical study with practical skills to prepare a new generation of leaders. It’s also a challenging time of transition in Texas and national politics, and the LBJ School is uniquely positioned to be part of studying and participating in our political system. “

"The idea of establishing a Center that brings public policy students together, at UT, with people who are part of the political world—elected officials, campaign consultants and the press—is such an opportunity for our students,” Stekler said. “It especially makes sense to pursue these goals at a school named after LBJ, one of our most political of American presidents. The Center was just an idea a few years ago. With today's launch and conference, it's a reality.”

The Center for Politics and Governance will develop timely, substantive courses for students on the state of politics and will conduct research aimed at recognizing and understanding the changing electorate landscape in the political arena in Texas and in the nation, with particular focus on the opportunities and challenges posed by America’s rapidly growing Hispanic population. It will develop leaders through civic engagement, leadership development programs and community forums, and it will conduct statewide and national polls focused on relevant political issues.

The Center helps develop courses that include “The Modern American Political Campaign,” led by Stekler, an Emmy Award-winning documentarian.  The course uses an innovative mix of lecture, film study and interaction with current practitioners. Instructors include reporters, presidential campaign strategists and media directors, including David Axelrod, Charlie Cook, Matthew Dowd, Mandy Grunwald, Mark McKinnon, and Wayne Slater.

The Center houses the Hispanic Policy Leadership Institute. Its Hispanic Leaders Program is dedicated to furthering the role of the Hispanic community in the government and political process through research, outreach and leader development. Beginning this year, the Center will collaborate with LBJ School student leaders to present the annual Barbara Jordan Forum. In addition, it will offer a broad range of mid-career, research and community enrichment programs, which includes a mid-career program for government leaders and a resident fellow program.

AT&T Inc. and the AT&T Foundation have been longstanding supporters of The University of Texas System. This $1 million grant fulfills the AT&T Foundation’s mission to support educational programs and initiatives.

For more information contact: Susan Binford, assistant dean for communications, LBJ School, 512-232-4006 (office), 626-818-2233 (mobile); Jodi Bart, spokesperson, AT&T, 512-495-7173 (office), 512-657-8297 (mobile).