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Education Policy Fellowship Program

The Role of Think Tanks & Policy Centers

November 8, 2004
12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Kellogg Center, MSU

This seminar will focus on two topics. The first part of this session will explore how public policy is shaped by think tanks and other organizations which work at the intersection of research, policy and politics. We will examine the work of both public and private sector organizations and analyze how their reports, studies and information are used by business and political leaders in the policy debate. The second topic is designed to advance the development of the EPFP learning teams.

Session A Resource Persons:

Mr. John C. Austin (EPFP 1991-92)
Senior Project Manager
Public Policy Associates
119 Pere Marquette Drive
Lansing, MI 48912
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John Austin is a Senior Policy Advisor with Public Policy Associates (PPA) and an elected member of the Michigan State Board of Education. Mr. Austin has over 20 years of experience in public policy development and management. He is a nationally recognized leader in economic development, education, and community revitalization. Recently, Mr. Austin coauthored the influential report Revitalizing Michigan Cities with Michigan Future, Inc. and has spearheaded efforts of Michigan’s new Department of Labor and Economic Development to reshape Michigan’s economic, workforce, and urban development agenda. Mr. Austin advises city and state governments, the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, national foundations, corporations, and labor organizations on a wide variety of issues. 

Prior to joining PPA, Austin earned a reputation as an innovator and bridge builder as president of the Flint Roundtable, a multisector CEO leadership organization in Genesee County focused on regional education reform, where he developed nationally recognized education programs. In addition Mr. Austin has served as a special assistant to Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and as a senior advisor to the Massachusetts Secretary of Economic Affairs. 

Austin is a published author on education, workforce development, urban and community revitalization, and public policy reform. He received his master’s in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a bachelor’s from Swarthmore College in economics and political science, Phi Beta Kappa. Mr. Austin is also an Education Policy Fellow for the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL).

Dr. David N. Plank
Director, The Education Policy Center at Michigan State University
and Professor, Department of Educational Administration,
College of Education

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David Plank is Director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University and a professor of educational administration specializing in the areas of educational policy and educational finance. He has conducted research and served as a consultant in these areas in the United States, Africa, and Latin America. His research interests focus on the relationship between democratic governance and policy change in educational systems. He is co-investigator on three studies of school choice and school reform in Michigan. The first, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, explores the enactment of competing reform strategies in professional development schools and charter schools. The second, funded by the Spencer Foundation, investigates the ecological effects of expanded opportunities for school choice in metropolitan Lansing. The third, funded by the Michigan Legislature, compares the impacts of school choice in Lansing, Detroit, and Grand Rapids. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Mr. Lawrence W. Reed
Mackinac Center for Public Policy
140 West Main Street
P.O. Box 568
Midland, Michigan 48640
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Lawrence W. (Larry) Reed, 51, is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Midland-based research and educational institute. The Center's mission is to equip Michigan citizens and other decision-makers to better evaluate Michigan public policy options and to do so from a "free market" perspective.

Reed holds a B.A. degree in Economics from Grove City College (1975) and an M.A. degree in History from Slippery Rock State University (1978), both in Pennsylvania. He taught economics at Midland's Northwood University from 1977 to 1984 and chaired the Department of Economics from 1982 to 1984. He designed the university's unique dual major in Economics and Business Management and founded its annual, highly-acclaimed "Freedom Seminar." In 1982, he was a major party candidate in the general election for the U. S. House of Representatives from Michigan's 4th district. He moved to Boise, Idaho in 1984 to direct a policy institute there before moving back to Michigan to head up the Mackinac Center in December 1987.

Under his leadership, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has emerged as the largest and one of the most effective and prolific of over 40 state-based "free market" think tanks in America. In 1994, he was elected to a one-year term as President of the State Policy Network, a national organization whose membership consists of those state-based groups. Michigan Governor John M. Engler and many of his administration's officials have frequently cited the work of the Mackinac Center as extraordinarily influential in shaping administration policies. 

In 1994, Reed was invited to give the Commencement address to the graduating class of the Colleges of Education, Health, and Human Services and Extended Learning at Central Michigan University (CMU) before an audience of 6,000. CMU conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Administration. In 1998, Grove City College (his undergraduate alma mater) bestowed upon him its "Distinguished Alumni Award."

In the past twenty years, he has authored over 800 newspaper columns and articles, 200 radio commentaries, dozens of articles in magazines and journals in the U. S. and abroad, as well as five books. The two most recent are Lessons from the Past: The Silver Panic of 1893, and Private Cures for Public Ills: The Promise of Privatization, both published by the Foundation for Economic Education. Since 1978, he has delivered more than 1,000 speeches in 40 states and 15 foreign countries, including one at Peoples University in Beijing, China. He is also a frequent commentator on Michigan radio stations and has given more than 400 radio, television and newspaper interviews.

Reed's interests in political and economic affairs have taken him as a freelance journalist to 61 countries on six continents since 1985, including five visits to Russia, three to China, four to Nicaragua, two to Poland, two to Kenya, and others to such places as Cambodia, East Germany, Mozambique, Haiti, Japan, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, Greece, Italy, Australia, Slovenia, Croatia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Singapore, Israel, Egypt, Malaysia, Vietnam, Iceland and New Zealand.

From firsthand experience, he has reported on hyperinflation in South America, voodoo in Haiti, black markets behind the Iron Curtain, reforms and repression in China and Cambodia, the recent stunning developments in Eastern Europe, and civil war inside Nicaragua and Mozambique. Among many foreign adventures, Reed visited the ravaged nation of Cambodia in 1989 with his late friend, Academy Award winner Dr. Haing S. Ngor; recorded an authentic native voodoo ceremony in a remote region of Haiti in 1987; traveled with the Polish anti-communist underground for which he was arrested and detained by border police in 1986; interviewed presidents and cabinet officials in half a dozen nations; spent time with the contra rebels during the Nicaraguan civil war; and lived for two weeks with the rebels of Mozambique at their bush headquarters in 1991, at the height of that country's devastating guerrilla conflict.

Reed was elected in 1994 to the Board of Trustees of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in Irvington, New York -- one of the oldest and most respected economics institutes in America and publisher of the journal, Ideas on Liberty, for which he writes a monthly column entitled "Ideas and Consequences." In 1998, he was elected chairman of FEE's board of Trustees and reelected chairman in 1999 and 2000.

In 1993, he was appointed by Governor Engler to the Headlee Amendment Blue Ribbon Commission. In 1994, he was named to a task force of the Secchia Commission on Total Quality Government, which was charged by Governor Engler with the mission of streamlining Michigan state government. On a more local level, Reed has served on boards of directors of Eagle Village in Osceola County, the Voluntary Action Center of Midland, the Midland-Morning Rotary Club, and the Saginaw Valley Torch Club (president, 1998-1999), and recently completed a three-year term as a member of the board of a charter public school in Winn, Michigan.

Dr. Douglas B. Roberts

College of Social Science
321 Berkey Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824-1111
(517) 355-6672This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">
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Dr. Douglas B. Roberts has served as the Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University since August 2003. Doug has an extensive background in public policy and economic policy at the state and national levels. For 10 years he served as Michigan's State Treasurer, with responsibilities for economic and revenue forecasting; collecting, refunding, auditing, and enforcing the major tax laws; and all the state's banking functions. In addition, he was responsible for managing and investing the common cash, retirement funds and various trust and agency funds. The Treasurer represents the Executive Branch at the Revenue Consensus Conference, a process Michigan uses to set revenue estimates upon which the annual state budget is based.

He has also served as Director of the Senate Fiscal Agency, the agency responsible for providing the Michigan Senate with technical and analytical support for all bills considered by the Senate. For four years he served as Deputy State Superintendent of Public Instruction in the Michigan Department of Education. He has also held appointments as Acting Director and Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Management and Budget, Director of the Office of the State Employer, Director of the Office of Revenue and Tax Analysis, and the Chief Aide for the Michigan House of Representatives Taxation Committee.

His private sector experience includes leadership roles as Vice President for Business Development and Vice President for Best Practices for the Lockheed Martin IMS. Dr. Roberts has a BA in Economics from the University of Maryland, and a MA and Ph.D. in Economics from Michigan State University.

Mr. Jeff Williams (EPFP 1997-98)

Vice President for Technology & Public Policy
600 W. Saint Joseph St. Suite 10
Lansing, MI 48933
(517) 484-4954This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">
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Jeff Williams is vice president for technology and public policy at Public Sector Consultants. He advises the firm's clients on technology issues and supervises the firm's internal and external information services and staff. Mr. Williams also conducts research and analysis on health policy and education issues and supervises PSC's public opinion and stakeholder survey research. He has been with the firm since 1991, serving first as an administrative assistant for survey research, then technology consultant, then senior consultant.
Prior to joining PSC, Mr. Williams was a program officer at the Midwestern Higher Education Commission. While at the commission, he provided staff support to the Telecommunications Committee and assisted with management of a nine-state, $18-million distance learning/interactive video equipment purchase program. He also provided staff support to the commission's Risk Management and Academic Course Scheduling Committees.
Mr. Williams holds an undergraduate degree with honors in international relations from Michigan State University and a master's degree in technology and public affairs from the University of Minnesota.

Session B: Establishing Learning Teams

Resource Persons: Coordinators and Fellows

During the 2004-05 program year the Michigan Fellows will participate on one or more Learning Teams and gain experience working in a virtual learning community. The Learning Teams will be responsible for planning a series of future EPFP sessions on a set of topics which have been identified by this year's participants. During this session the Fellows will review and refine the set of proposed topics identified to date, establish diverse cross boundary teams, and develop strategies for effective team participation. Additional Learning Team Information has been posted here.

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