Arizona is a “laboratory for the future of democracy,” and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, as well as the university where it is based, are vital contributors to that laboratory, Arizona State University President Michael Crow recently told friends and supporters of the institute.
The institute celebrated its 40th anniversary with a Feb. 28 Impact Showcase at the at the Helios Education Campus, which offered presentations of its key research initiatives and community partnerships.
Crow was joined by Paul Luna, Helios Foundation president and CEO; Jacob Moore, Morrison Institute advisory board chair and ASU associate vice president for tribal relations; Andrea Whitsett, Morrison Institute executive director; and Richard Morrison, Morrison Institute co-founder, who all gave remarks at the event.
Crow praised the institute for its nonpartisan, fact-based research into complex issues, particularly as many are speaking against the U.S. Constitution and denying election results, though such people have appeared throughout the nation’s history.
“The difference is, how do you move forward with all that going on? And what you see in Arizona is unbelievable progress, I would say, not because Morrison is a part of ASU, but because of the approach Morrison takes, really tackling complicated questions, (saying) let’s hold nothing back. Let’s call the facts the facts,” Crow said.
The institute and its many published research reports and activities have also informed how the university itself is designed, and have empowered its designers, including Crow himself, he said.
“How do they do that? They do it by telling us what the people think, what the people want, what the ambitions are, what the arguments are, what the limits are, what the constraints are, and how they are perceived. So they give powerful, powerful input,” he said.
Crow said the ASU Charter “is the charter of an institution in a laboratory of democracy called Arizona, heavily influenced by this nonpartisan institute, the Morrison Institute of Public Policy, which is, make no mistake about it, a ‘take-no-prisoners’ institution in the sense of what they say.
"This charter and this university (are) one element of this emergent laboratory of democracy that gives us a better probability than any of the other laboratories.”
Unlike many other states where change is far more difficult to achieve, Arizonans have the chance to do things in a different way, Crow said, “and things like the Morrison Institute are absolutely essential to our chance of designing the democratic outcomes we all want to achieve, and then the institutions that come from that design, including the public universities and what we do.”
Success achievable ‘only through partnership’
Luna said he appreciated Helios’ partnership with ASU and Crow’s visionary leadership in improving student outcomes. The institute has a unique impact “on the work we all do in the community, and how we improve our community, from the leadership and research we are able to receive from the Morrison Institute,” he said.
“(It’s) only through partnership that any of us can be successful in proving the type of student outcomes and achieving our statewide goals that we have, that so many of you, and the Morrison Institute and ASU are committed to helping to improve and drive that increased success for all of our students,” Luna said.
Luna praised the data the institute provides decision-makers, mentioning one of the institute’s best-known and most far-reaching reports, “Five Shoes Waiting to Drop on Arizona's Future,” issued in 2001, which he said highlighted the challenges Arizonans face in improving education outcomes. But the report also provided perspective about Latino students, the largest demographic of students in the state.
Challenges to serve that demographic continue today, said Luna, who said serving Latino students will improve outcomes for all students, regardless of “background, ethnicity or community.”
‘The reason we are in this room’
Whitsett told the gathering she was proud to lead an organization that is so well aligned with the aims of the ASU Charter, and thanked many who lent her and the institute a “guiding hand,” including her predecessors, the Morrison Institute advisory board and her staff.
“We take so seriously being good stewards of the institute and its reputation and the trust we have earned in this state,” Whitsett said. “It is affirming to see how many of you also find the Morrison Institute to be a real treasure in Arizona, a valued and unique asset, and one that contributes to our having an informed citizenry and a healthy, thriving democracy.”
Whitsett gave special thanks to Richard Morrison and to his parents, whose generous gift in the early 1980s created the Morrison Institute, calling Richard Morrison “the person whose spirit of public service and foresight is the reason we are in this room.”
“Richard, you and your parents, June and Marvin Morrison, did a tremendous thing in founding this institute,” said Whitsett, who held many positions at the Morrison Institute before becoming executive director in 2018. “Your determination to create a place for facts and policy ideas to flourish free from partisanship is remarkable. You have been an inspiration to me, and your vision for Arizona is so compelling that once I found this institute, I was hooked.”
Richard Morrison expressed appreciation to all those who have made the institute a success.
“On behalf of the Morrison family and hopefully, anybody who has benefited from 40 years of work in this institute, I want to thank you, Michael Crow, three (ASU) presidents, multiple deans, superb directors, invaluable staff,” he said. “This anniversary is not about the Morrison family, this is about the people who have made this state work. My congratulations to all of you.”
Top image: ASU President Michael Crow addresses attendees at the Feb. 28 Morrison Institute for Public Policy Impact Showcase. Morrison Institute photo by Laura Segall
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