Academia to the Rescue

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2008

An audit of our region’s civic balance sheet would likely reveal a good supply of opinions, ideas, creativity and intelligence. Conversely, I’m afraid we’d uncover a shortage of effective leadership, positive action and public discourse.

The good news is that USF Sarasota-Manatee has retooled its Institute for Public Policy and Leadership and is now providing us with forums for critical thought on vital issues. Via ongoing programs of themed, open discussions that are intelligently planned, well-attended and appropriately representative, the IPPL can be a stimulus for better leadership and more positive action. That potential of converting our liabilities into assets is exciting.

The Institute was founded in 2003 to help shape the future social, economic and governmental environments that influence the lives of citizens by serving as an effective, high-quality knowledge resource, broker and facilitator. Its primary mission is to conduct nonpartisan research, deliberation, training and education on important public policy and leadership issues. The underlying objective is to foster informed public decision-making and responsible, ethical governance.

I hadn’t heard about the IPPL until December, when I met its newly appointed director, David Klement, a prominent commentator on public policy in the Sarasota-Manatee area for three decades. A prize-winning journalist with broad newspaper experience, Klement was editorial page editor of The Bradenton Herald for 30 years before joining USF and the IPPL last fall. He has interviewed presidents, senators, generals, state legislators and countless local elected officials—including every candidate for public office in Manatee County from 1977-2007.

When he took over the IPPL’s helm in October, Klement quickly developed two separate series of forums and workshops. One, launched on Feb. 12 in partnership with Biz941 and Sarasota Magazine, is called “The Next Five Years,” a four-part series focusing on the challenges and opportunities facing the Sarasota-Manatee community as the economic recession and real estate meltdown ripple through the local economy. The second, “Civility in Democracy: Election 2008,” is a year-long series Klement created in collaboration with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice and Collins Center for Public Policy.

In addition, IPPL presents a lecture series that brings in academic and professional leaders with public policy expertise for speeches and workshops. And the Institute also is supervising an eight-month scientific study of Manatee County’s healthcare system.

Thank you, USF, and most especially David Klement, for helping us learn how to focus, discuss and decide what our future should be. We all greatly benefit by this effort. And if USF becomes the catalyst for change in how we decide what we want to be, it will benefit by heightened visibility and status. That’s also good.

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