Morrison Institute welcomes state senate research leader as director of Arizona Governance and Policy Academy

May 10, 2021

Since 2016, Jake Agron has led the Arizona Senate Research Department, which provides nonpartisan, objective research and policy analysis to the elected members of the chamber.

Now Agron is returning to his Sun Devil roots — he graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science before going off to earn a law degree from the City University of New York — to oversee the Morrison Institute for Public Policy’s Arizona Governance and Policy Academy. A photo of Jake Agron standing in front of the Westward Ho building in Downtown Phoenix. Jake Agron, Morrison Institute for Public Policy’s new director of civic education and governance. Download Full Image

The Arizona Governance and Policy Academy offers information sessions on complex yet critical public policy issues — such as the economy, tribal sovereignty, water, housing, tourism and child welfare — that Arizona’s elected leaders at all levels of government are likely to encounter as policymakers. One objective of the academy is to connect elected officials and their staff with subject matter expertise from across ASU, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. The Arizona Governance and Policy Academy is supported with funding from APS.

As Morrison Institute’s director of civic education and governance, Agron will also be responsible for designing and conducting Arizona-focused research related to governance, civic education, election administration, ballot access, and voter registration and turnout. He’ll also be developing resources aimed at making government entities and processes more transparent and accessible to Arizona residents. 

Question: You’ve spent more than a decade working at the Arizona Capitol. Much of that time, you led the team that provides nonpartisan research to members of the Arizona Senate. How did that experience prepare you to lead the Arizona Governance and Policy Academy and connect ASU expertise to elected officials?

Answer: My experience working at the Arizona Senate has prepared me for this role in two major respects. First, I understand the needs of elected officials and their staff as they navigate the complex process and schedule of lawmaking. Additionally, I have spent my career providing nonpartisan analysis in a very political environment. I look forward to continuing to connect policymakers to nonpartisan research as part of the Arizona Governance and Policy Academy.

Q: You’ve had more of an insider’s chance than most Arizonans to see what works — and what doesn’t — with respect to our state and local government structures. What are some topics related to Arizona governance that you think are ripe for research?

A: We’re certainly in an opportunistic moment in which stakeholders from across the political spectrum are interested in criminal justice reform. I think there is certainly a desire for specific and targeted research on safe ways to reduce the prison population. The other topics that are ripe for research are those related to emerging technologies that are not widely understood. For example, blockchain technology will likely have a growing impact in many industries and policymakers will be confronted with the role of government regulation in those various sectors.

Q: What’s something you wish Arizonans knew about how the Arizona Capitol works?

A: The range of topics legislators are confronted with at the Capitol each year can feel insurmountable — especially for newly elected members. With that said, there is a genuine desire at the Capitol, whether by elected officials or their staff, to want to learn more about how proposed legislation will affect their constituents.

ASU NewSpace exposition looks to the future of Arizona's space industry

May 10, 2021

AZLabs and ASU NewSpace Initiative’s defense and space technology exposition, Infinite Movement, featured several presentations from ASU faculty and researchers, as well as a speech from Sen. Mark Kelly.

Infinite Movement, organized by AZLabs and ASU NewSpace in collaboration with ASURE, the Arizona Commerce Authority and the city of Mesa, brought together on Friday, May 7, the best and brightest of Arizona industry to present on their contributions to defense and space technology. Sen. Mark Kelly Sen. Mark Kelly speaks at the Infinite Movement event on Friday, May 7. Photo by Tim Trumble Download Full Image

The event was held in person at AZLabs with a virtual Zoom option for those who opted to attend online.

Kelly, the keynote speaker, expressed his excitement at the innovations in space and space technology coming out of Arizona.

The senator reminded the audience of Arizona’s rich history within the space industry, with all 24 Apollo astronauts training in Arizona before walking on or orbiting the moon. Kelly expressed his desire to keep Arizona at the forefront of the emerging commercial space industry. 

“I look forward to being your partner as we continue to grow Arizona’s role in national defense and in space technology,” Kelly said.

Kelly celebrated ASU’s win with the Mastcam-Z team, telling the audience, “Those cameras that are on Perseverance were designed at ASU.”

After Kelly spoke, NewSpace Associate Director of Research and Science Jim Rice gave a presentation on the role of the NewSpace Initiative in Arizona’s emerging space technology industry.

“One of our main jobs is to connect (ASU) professors with the commercial space industry,” Rice said. “We’re bringing our strengths in engineering, science and education forward.”

Esko Mikkola and Rafi Islam, CEOs of local Arizona businesses Alphacore and Cactus Materials, respectively, showcased the benefits of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer program. Their presentation highlighted the wins Arizona-based companies are receiving in the SBIR/STTR program and how these wins are being achieved by ASU students and faculty.

Other presentations featured guests like Cyndi Coon, CEO of Laboratory 5, ASU Professor Teresa Wu and community-college-professor-turned-civilian-astronaut Sian Proctor and covered such topics as threatcasting, medical care for astronauts and civilian spaceflight. 

Proctor was selected for SpaceX’s first private flight, the Inspiration4 mission. She spoke on getting more civilians into space in the future.

“How do we open it up so when we say ‘space is for everyone,’ it truly is for everyone?” Proctor asked.

Additionally, several booths were set up showcasing the technological advancements being made at ASU and Arizona businesses.

Sean Bryan, an associate research scientist at ASU, showcased his CubeSounder project, which will allow scientists to gather more weather data from smaller satellites. 

Sheri Klug Boonstra, an associate research professional at ASU, brought student work from the SpaceWorks Project, an initiative at ASU that offers real-world experience to students looking to work in the space industry. 

Flash presentations were given by several Arizona businesses including R2 Advanced Technologies, Qwaltec, KinetX, MJS Designs, Baltu Technologies and Crow Industries, showcasing their contributions to defense and space technology.

“America is now leading, again, a new age of space exploration and development, thanks to Arizonan ingenuity,” Kelly said.

Written by Reagan Priest for ASU NewSpace