New CSU initiative provides faculty training in public policy

A cohort of seven Colorado State University faculty members are the first of a new initiative by the Office of the Vice President for Research to help faculty influence public policy.

The OVPR Government Relations Faculty Ambassadors Initiative is a new program to assist faculty members with strong research focuses to engage with federal, state and local policy on issues affecting business, environment, foreign policy, families and public health. Faculty ambassadors receive training in becoming an expert resource for lawmakers, maximizing the impact of their research while identifying opportunities for new government funding and media relations.

According to Courtney Schultz, director of the Public Lands Policy Group and CSU Climate Adaptation Partnership, the members of this first-year cohort have expertise in biodiversity conservation, climate adaptation, data privacy, public health and foreign policy, among other areas. Schultz said the faculty members selected for the cohort demonstrated a strong interest in government relations and are doing work that has direct applicability to policy, along with partnering with the Climate Adaptation Partnership.

The initiative “signals an investment in ensuring that our research efforts translate into broader impacts for society and go beyond the ivory tower,” Schultz said. “We are making sure our faculty members have the capacity to be honest brokers in their efforts to be a resource to policymakers. This translation is especially important during this time of great uncertainty and change.”

Kelly Martin, a professor of marketing in the College of Business, said she was interested in the initiative as it seemed like a way to develop skills and advance her research at the intersection of marketing and public policy.

“My primary research stream involves customer data privacy and how regulatory and business efforts influence customers,” Martin said. “I hope that my participation allows my work to take a more intentional policy focus, knowing the key concerns, decisions, and obstacles faced by regulators in considering policy creation, implementation, and monitoring. CSU leads on many important scientific fronts, and I hope that some of the outstanding research happening in the College of Business also can gain more recognition in public policy systems.”

Nathaniel Riggs, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, focuses his research on prevention science, a relatively new field intended to promote positive youth development, strengthen family resilience, and connect with communities to reduce substance misuse, violence, and mental health problems.

Riggs said he chose to participate in the initiative to learn the best practices in effective policy engagement, so he can learn how to best inform policy makers who support prevention efforts.

“I think that at a land-grant university, we often think of our engagement mission solely in terms of engaging with community partners. This is critically important work, for sure,” Riggs said. “However, we also need to engage with policymakers who can help cultivate a policy context through which our research can be effectively translated into action with our community partners. My hope is that this initiative fosters thinking about university engagement as an integrated process involving policy, research, and community practice.”

Schultz said the overall goal of the initiative is to train faculty members to communicate effectively with policymakers and allow the scientific expertise at CSU to inform how policies are developed.

“The research we do at CSU has major implications for policy makers across the range of profound social and ecological challenges we face as a society,” Schultz said. “This program will prepare CSU researchers to bring their science to policy makers to inform policy debates and the development of new laws and programs. We want to increase our impact, but also create a two-way dialogue for policymakers to communicate to us their priority needs to inform our directions as faculty members.”