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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 10, 2012

Public Policy Center opens Policy Matters class to public

The University of Iowa is offering a class featuring speakers on a wide range of important policy issues, from women judges and campaign financing to work standards and sustainability, all with a twist: the classes are free and open to the public.

"Policy Matters: Scholarly and Practical Perspectives on Contemporary Problems" is a UI undergraduate class offered by the UI Public Policy Center (PPC) in conjunction with the UI History Department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Each class is also open to the public, free of charge, and features nationally recognized UI faculty and outside experts sharing their experiences on pressing domestic issues.

Sessions are held from 6:30-8:20 p.m. every Wednesday in the UI Main Library's Shambaugh Auditorium. UI history professor Colin Gordon directs the course and moderates the discussions.

"I try to set the larger political and historical context for each weekly topic," Gordon says. "But then I try to get out of the way and devote as much of each session to the real experts – and to the interaction between those experts, our students and members of the public."

Pete Damiano, D.D.S. and director of the PPC, adds, "We have designed this course as a way to share the expertise and resources of the University with the public on some of the more important issues of the day."

Among the upcoming speakers are former UI professor and current Tulane professor Sally Kenney and Common Cause President and CEO Robert Edgar.
Kenney will speak Feb. 29 on her forthcoming book, Gender and Justice: Why Women Judges Really Matter. A discussion will follow, assisted by UI Charles M. and Marion J. Kierscht Professor of Law Angela Onwuachi-Willig.
From 1989-1995, Kenney held a joint appointment in Political Science, Women's Studies and Law at the UI.
"It is great to be able to invite Professor Kenney back to campus as a recognized expert on women and the judiciary. It is a timely and important topic," Damiano says.
Kenney has served on the judicial-academic network of the National Association of Women Judges. In addition, she has served on the boards of the court monitoring organization Watch, the Minnesota Women's Campaign Fund, and the University of Minnesota Press.
"At a time of stark scrutiny and controversy—including the recent recall of three Iowa Justices, unprecedented partisan attacks on judicial independence and pending Supreme Court review of health care reform—Professor Kenney's work on gender and the law is especially timely," Gordon says.
The following Wednesday, March 7, Edgar will present a lecture discussing the influence of campaign financing, the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and the rise of SuperPACs on American political discourse.
"In the wake of Citizens United, the work of Bob Edgar and Common Cause, which is the nation's leading advocate for equity and transparency in campaign finance, is more important than ever," Gordon says.
Common Cause is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit 'citizens' lobby working to make government at all levels more honest, open and accountable, and to connect citizens with their democracy.
"Common Cause has been a recognized name in the area of campaign finance and campaign reform for decades. Mr. Edgar fits our yearly series on political discourse perfectly," Damiano says.
Edgar has been the president and CEO of Common Cause for almost five years after representing the Seventh Congressional District outside of Philadelphia as a member of Congress for six terms.

The topics and dates for all remaining class sessions are as follows:

* Feb. 15: "The Battle of Wisconsin" with Gordon.
* Feb. 22: "Politics in a Digital Age" with UI political science professor Caroline Tolbert and David Perlmutter, director of the UI School of Journalism.
* Feb. 29: "Making the Case for Women Judges" with Kenney.
* March 7: "Campaign Finance" with Edgar.
* March 21: "Resource Policies" – Water & Energy with Mary Skopec, a program coordinator and research geologist with IOWATER, and UI engineering professor Craig Just.
* March 28: "Income Security" with UI sociology professor Kevin Leicht and Brian Loring, executive director of the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County.
* April 4: "Work Standards" and Labor Law with Lance Compa.
* April 11: "Health Care" with Gordon, Damiano, and Iowa Department of Public Health Director Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
* April 18: "Sustainability in the Built Environment" with PPC Director of Transportation Research Paul Hanley.
* April 25: "The Budget Riddle" with Iowa Policy Project Research Director Peter Fisher.

For a complete schedule and more information about the Policy Matters series and speakers, see

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the Public Policy center by calling 319-335-3800 or e-mail

The Public Policy Center is an interdisciplinary academic research center in the Office of the Vice President for Research that investigates the most important issues affecting daily lives. Research is focused on Iowa and beyond. The PPC also assists other researchers with their work and serves to bring the resources and expertise of the University to policy makers and the public.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Pete Damiano, Public Policy Center, 319-335-6800,; Stephen Pradarelli, University News Services, 319-384-0007,