Chris Mooney makes case for Paul Simon Institute director


Pulliam Hall can be seen Jan. 30, 2017, on the university’s Carbondale campus. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Gabby Pettyjohn

Chris Mooney, one of six finalists to become the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s next director, wants to implement a three point leadership approach at the bipartisan think tank.

Mooney, the director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, presented his plans for the institute Friday morning in the Student Center. If chosen, Mooney would replace David Yepsen, who retired in October 2016 after serving as director for seven years.

The first point of his three part approach involves refining the institute’s mission.


“A unique and important mission needs to be defined for the institution,” Mooney said. “This will be achieved through broad internal and external consultation and collaboration.”

He said once the mission is defined, the other two points of the plan include making decisions according to that mission and having accountability and adaption in the decision-making process.  

“Units and centers often question what they are doing,” Mooney said. “So you have to define the mission clearly.”

The institute conducts public opinion polls and hosts politicians, entrepreneurs and educators to give presentations on campus. It is named after the late two-term Sen. Paul Simon, who founded the institute in 1997.

Mooney said it is important for the institute to connect the university to the greater community around it.

“I believe that public universities should contribute to the political, social and cultural life of the communities that support them,” Mooney said. “A public service institute like the Paul Simon Institute should be a conduit and linkage between its university and the society it serves.”

Faculty members engagement in the institute should be increased, Mooney said.  

“A university’s faculty is one of the most valuable resources it has,” Mooney said. “There’s a vast wealth of knowledge that could be brought to the community.”


Mooney said participation can be increased by giving faculty members an incentive to be involved in the institute.

If they do decide to share their work with the institute, Mooney said faculty members’ work should be easily understandable.

“We need to figure out a way to help faculty learn to speak in ways that can be understood by people who are not in their field,” Mooney said. “Some faculty are interested and would love to see their work translated into public policy.”

Mooney received a doctorate in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1990 and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1982.

He also served as the founding editor of the “State and Politics Quarterly” from 1999 to 2007, and from 1999 to 2004 he was the director of Institute for Legislative Studies at University of Illinois at Springfield. He is the Honorable W. Russell Arrington Professor of State Politics at UIS.

Staff writer Gabby Pettyjohn can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @gpettyjohn98.

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