The Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy, located at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, is a non-partisan organization, which emphasizes better understanding of government and greater appreciation for the importance of public service. The Center strives to honor its namesake, Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr., and carry on his service to the people of Tennessee and America through education, research, and public programs.
"The Baker Center develops programs and promotes research to further the public's knowledge of our system of governance and of critical public policy issues, and to highlight the importance of public service. Areas of special interest include the media, energy, environment, the teaching of civics and history, political communications, national security, and the future of representative government. The Baker Center is and will remain a non-partisan institution. In all of our programs and activities, we seek to include and discuss many perspectives. In the best tradition of Howard Baker, the Center embodies his genuine respect for differing points of view. The Center neither advocates nor endorses specific policies or individuals. Instead, we serve as a forum for discussion, debate, education, and unbiased research."
History of the Center
In 2001, the University of Tennessee
received a congressionally authorized Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant to establish the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy. This grant was placed in an endowment to create the Center and begin its programming and operations.
In January 2003, Alan Lowe began serving as the Executive Director of the new Center. Patti Rebholz was hired as the Administrative Specialist in May, 2003. Assistant Director, Nissa Dahlin-Brown was hired in July, 2003. Bobby R. Holt serves as the Director of Archives and Research, and was hired in May, 2004.
The Baker Center's educational mission is reflective of Senator Baker's passion for public service and citizen participation in government. It creates programs, lesson plans, and other resources (including online resources) to reach students of all ages. The Center's goal is to help teachers in the instruction of civics, history, and communications. It emphasizes the importance of public service through public programming and partnerships with various departments at the university, as well as with high schools and civic education organizations, such as the Center for Civic Education, Association of Centers for the Study of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration
, and the Presidential Library
The Howard Baker Center operates using the proceeds from a congressionally authorized Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant. Congress awarded the grant to the University of Tennessee in 2001 to establish the Howard Baker Center. To maintain and expand its operations in the future, and to construct a dedicated facility, the Howard Baker Center will rely on contributions from donors.
As part of the center's emphasis on education, it has instituted the Baker Scholars Program. Each year, the Baker Center seeks out UT’s brightest and most engaged students to honor as Baker Scholars. These students, drawn from a range of academic disciplines, are active, highly motivated, and forward-looking members of the university community, and the Baker Center is pleased to support their lofty academic and professional pursuits. Baker Scholars are selected via an application and interview process conducted every January. Undergraduates must have a 3.5 GPA and graduate students must be in the upper third of their class. An interest in politics, public policy, government and/or public service is also required.
Modern Political Archives
The Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy and the University of Tennessee Libraries are partners in an effort to create the preeminent political archives in Tennessee and the Southeastern United States. The Modern Political Library & Archives (MPA) solicits and collects materials from political leaders of Tennessee, major associates of those leaders, and other individuals or groups who have had a major impact on Tennessee during the modern era (1945-present). The MPA holds many archival collections, including the papers of Senators Howard H. Baker, Jr.
, William Emerson Brock III
, Estes Kefauver
, and Fred Dalton Thompson
. Also included are the collections of Congressmen John J. Duncan, Sr.
and Howard Baker, Sr.
, Congresswoman Irene Baker
, Tennessee Governors Don Sundquist
and Winfield Dunn
, and Tennessee State Senator Ben Atchley
. The most recent donation to the MPA is Congressman Bob Clement
's political papers. Also, the MPA has recently begun work on the Cordell Hull
Project, in which it will collect and archive materials of the former Secretary of State and Nobel Prize winner.
The Baker Center hosts a wide range of public programs that involve and inform local, regional, national, and international audiences. The topics for these events involve issues important to America today, as informed by an understanding of history. The Center ensures that its public programs include a variety of students' issues and perspectives. The Baker Center has brought speakers including Al Gore, Fred Thompson, Bob Woodward, Winston Churchill III, and presented hundreds of other community and policy related events.
The Future of the Baker Center
On November 15, 2005, Senator Baker's 80th birthday, the Baker Center broke ground for its new facility--a building on the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Melrose Place in Knoxville. This new building will have educational, exhibit, public program, collection storage, research, and other administrative spaces critical to its operations. Its estimated completion date is June 2008.