KNOXVILLE — Work has started to revitalize the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy to make it more focused on critical issues, link it more directly to the campus’s academic community and ensure it remains financially viable into the future.
Last fall, Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek established a task force to review the performance of the Baker Center and make recommendations with regard to its mission, strategic priorities, governance, structure and funding.
The task force said the goal is “a more focused mission,” that is closely aligned with the university’s teaching, research and service mission. Recommendations being phased in will help the Baker Center integrate into UT’s academic life, contribute to its teaching mission and build an active research program that generates external funding.
Dr. Cheek has concurred with the recommendations and the executive committee of the Baker Center board and Sen. Baker have reviewed and endorsed the plan. The chancellor has asked Baker Center Director Carl Pierce to begin implementing the group’s recommendations as soon as possible.
Although the task force said the Baker Center’s work shouldn’t be limited to a single area of focus, it suggested the center is uniquely positioned to have a significant impact in the areas of global security, energy and the environment.
“We envision the Baker Center as a hub for educational and scholarly activity in these policy fields,” the report states. “By bringing together faculty from across campus and from other institutions, as well as researchers and administrators from ORNL, Y-12 and TVA, the Baker Center can come to be seen as a national leader in global security, energy and the environment.”
The Baker Center also should become more of a teaching and research center.
Specifically, the task force suggests the Baker Center partner with the Department of Political Science to deliver the Master of Public Policy and Administration program and, possibly, a doctoral concentration in public policy.
The Baker Center will utilize faculty members as fellows to seek external funding for research that is published in peer-reviewed journals.
The task force also recommended placing the Baker Center Archives under the auspices of the University Libraries. The archives currently include the political and personal papers of more than 30 people, including U.S. congressmen and senators, judges, Tennessee governors and others.
The Baker Center Task Force included Bill Fox, economics professor and director of UT’s Center for Business and Economic Research; Tom Griscom, former Chattanooga Times Free Press editor and publisher who once worked as press secretary to Sen. Baker and as White House communications director for President Ronald Reagan; Fred Marcum, Sen. Howard Baker’s senior adviser; Margie Nichols, UT vice chancellor for communications; John Scheb, head of UT’s Department of Political Science; and John Seigenthaler, journalist, writer, political figure and founder of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.