New Latino Policy Institute at SMU Stems From Unique Partnership, Changing Demographics

By NDG Staff
North Dallas Gazette
On the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15), SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies announced it has formed a strategic academic partnership with the Latino Center for Leadership Development (Latino CLD). The new Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Institute will identify and implement policy-focused solutions to the Latino community’s most pressing concerns, from educational and economic opportunities, to voting rights and immigration reform, to the under-representation of Latinos in elected and appointed roles at the federal, state and local levels, as well as corporate boards.
As part of the unique partnership, the Latino CLD will provide SMU’s Tower Center with $900,000 over five years. The funding will allow the new policy institute to attract and engage scholars and thought leaders in an interdisciplinary think-tank, creating a framework to analyze and develop policy priorities, provide public forums and outreach, and support greater understanding and influence for the Latino community.
“America is in the midst of a fundamental, Latino-driven demographic shift,” said Latino CLD founder and SMU alumnus Jorge Baldor ’93, citing Pew Research Center reports that Latinos will represent about 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2060. “With the growing number of Latinos comes a reciprocal responsibility to lead,” he said, adding, “Latino CLD is focused on developing the next generation of those leaders.”
“I’m pleased the Latino Center for Leadership Development and SMU are joining forces for a premier Latino policy institute. The research it produces will be an asset for policy makers, allowing for in-depth analysis and creation of policies that will improve the lives of people across Texas and throughout the nation,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.
The Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Institute will work in three major areas:
* Provide influential voices and data to support research on policy issues
* Offer two-year appointments for postdoctoral scholars who will research and publish their findings on public policy issues
* Provide research grants and public seminars to promote stronger community understanding and dialogue about key societal issues.
The relationship between the new SMU policy institute and Latino CLD also will allow promising leaders, such as those within the Latino CLD’s new Leadership Academy, “to develop as individuals and hone network skills necessary to assume positions of influence” while focused on policy and politics to help people from all spectrums of society, Baldor said.
“The Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Institute will provide an excellent opportunity to combine our expertise to focus on contemporary policy matters of major interest to this country’s diverse, growing Latino community,” said Joshua Rovner, director of studies at the Tower Center in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
“As a hub for social-scientific issues, we will play a major role in cutting through the cacophony of numbers related to the Latino community, letting us take big issues and quickly drill down to ideas for thoughtful solutions and policy implementation,” Rovner said.
The announcement of the new policy institute follows on the heels of the Tower Center’s Sept. 8 launch of its new Texas-Mexico Program during Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s historic visit to Mexico.
“SMU is becoming a major presence in Latino-focused research and education,” said Thomas DiPiero, dean of Dedman College.
“It’s also a propitious moment to bring new expertise and scholarship to bear both nationally and locally,” he said, noting that the Dallas-Fort Worth region, with 7 million people, is the nation’s fourth-largest population center, and growing rapidly.
“Looking ahead, the success of this institute will allow SMU and the Latino CLD to contribute vital public policy research while based in DFW – a U.S. political and economic center of gravity with strong global connections,” DiPiero said.