Speakers Bureau

The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute makes available to the community a team of experts for keynote addresses, panels, retreats, conferences, webinars, strategic discussions and more. We do not charge a speakers fee, but do encourage donations to our Business and Economic Scholarship Fund. For more information on how to engage a speaker or make a contribution to the scholarship fund, please fill out the form below, or contact Colleen Larson at (801) 585-5618 or colleen.larson@utah.edu.


Natalie Gochnour, M.S.
Associate Dean and Director

Natalie Gochnour, M.S.

Natalie Gochnour serves as an associate dean in the David Eccles School of Business and director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. She also serves as the chief economist for the Salt Lake Chamber. In these roles she helps connect the Eccles School with the broader business community and shares applied economic and business research.

Gochnour’s experience includes a diverse mix of public service and business experience. During her public service she advised Utah governors Norm Bangerter, Mike Leavitt and Olene Walker. She also served as a political appointee in the George W. Bush administration, serving as an associate administrator at the EPA and deputy to the secretary at Health and Human Services. For seven years she led the public policy endeavors of the Salt Lake Chamber. Gochnour writes regular columns for Utah Business magazine and the Deseret News.

During Gochnour’s state service she advised Utah governors Bangerter, Leavitt and Walker, and served as the media spokesperson for the governor’s office during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. She also served as a political appointee in the George W. Bush administration, serving as an associate administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a deputy to the secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2012, Gochnour was the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award for business from the YWCA Salt Lake City. She has also been honored by Wasatch Women magazine as the “Wasatch Women of the Year,” an honor bestowed to women in the community who elevate the stature of women and serve the community good. Gochnour serves on the Salt Lake City International Airport Board, Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation Board and Primary Children’s Medical Center Board. She is a gubernatorial appointee to the Governor’s Economic Development Council and vice-chair of Envision Utah, one of the nation’s most successful quality growth partnerships.

Gochnour has both an undergraduate and master’s degree in economics from the University of Utah. She also teaches Public Finance for the Economics Department.

James A. Wood
Ivory-Boyer Senior Fellow

James Wood is the Ivory-Boyer Senior Fellow at the Policy Institute. He specializes in several research areas including housing, construction, real estate, and economic development.

Mr. Wood has published over 100 articles and studies related to the Utah economy. This includes housing markets, community development, regional economics, and economic development. Mr. Wood has conducted numerous studies on local housing market conditions, and was the principal investigator on a sustainable communities grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He was also the principal investigator on a two-year cost-benefit study of homeless participants in Utah’s Housing First Program. For 15 years, Mr. Wood directed a BEBR contract with the State of Utah for economic development research, which included the completion of thirteen industry-specific studies including Utah’s aerospace, natural resource, machinery and electronics industries, and the machinery industry.

Mr. Wood is a member of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, and serves on the board of the Salt Lake Home Builders Association, the Salt Lake County Housing Trust Fund, NeighborWorks Salt Lake and is a member of the State of Utah Revenue Assumptions Working Group.

A graduate of the University of Utah with a B.S. in finance and four years of graduate study in economics, Mr. Wood joined the business school in 1975 and spent over 25 years as a researcher and senior research analyst. He served as director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research from 2002 to 2015.


Pamela S. Perlich, Ph.D.
Director of Demographic Research

Pamela S. Perlich, Ph.D.

Pamela Perlich, Ph.D. is the director of demographic research at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah where she leads the newly formed DemographyUTAH team. In this role, she and her team are responsible for developing and producing population estimates and projections, neighborhood indicators, and demographic analyses focusing on Utah. In addition, the DemographyUTAH team is responsible for the Utah State Data Center, a program affiliated with the U.S. Census Bureau that is responsible for the dissemination and interpretation of demographic and socioeconomic data, including recently released and historical.

Formerly, she worked as a senior research economist with the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, which has recently merged into the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Prior to joining BEBR, she worked in the Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, concentrating on long run economic and demographic projections. Although trained as an economist, she applies a multidisciplinary approach to develop data, modeling, and analysis that identifies ongoing demographic, economic and cultural transformations. The focus of her work is to illuminate these trends and the associated implications for the future, especially as they impact Utah. Her work highlights the great diversity in our communities and how these change over time.

She is highly effective in communicating these ideas to a broad nontechnical audience, including everyday people as well as community leaders. She has received awards for teaching, publication, and public service. Her work in the community includes frequent speaking engagements for civic, education, governmental, corporate, and professional organizations. She often serves as a resource to the press, providing the Utah context for broader events. Pamela serves on numerous boards and commissions.

Dr. Perlich received her B.S. in both economics and business from the University of Tulsa and her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Utah. Prior to joining the University of Utah in 2000, Dr. Perlich worked for seven years in the Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, concentrating on long run economic and demographic trends. Before this, she taught for seven years at Tulsa Community College.

Juliette Tennert, M.S.
Director of Economic and Public Policy Research

Juliette Tennert, M.S.

Juliette Tennert is the director of economic and public policy research at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, specializing in Utah’s economy, economic forecasting and modeling, fiscal policy analysis, and economic impact studies.

Ms. Tennert will oversee a staff of economists and analysts who study the Utah economy and public policy issues that impact the state.  She brings a wealth of experience to The Policy Institute and will oversee research including fiscal and economic impact studies, economic forecasts, and policy analysis. Her most recent work includes state revenue forecasting, labor force analysis, housing and construction research, and international trade data analysis.

Before joining the Eccles School, Ms. Tennert served as the state budget director and chief economist for Governor Gary Herbert, chief economist for Governor Jon Huntsman, and as a fiscal analyst for the Utah State Legislature.  Prior to her state service, Tennert was a research analyst for the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

Ms. Tennert holds a master’s degree in economics from UNLV and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago.  She is also an adjunct instructor of public budgeting and finance in the University of Utah’s Master of Public Administration program and has been honored as one of Utah Business Magazine’s annual “30 Women to Watch.”

Jennifer Robinson, Ph.D.
Associate Director

Jennifer Robinson, Ph.D.

Jennifer Robinson is the associate director of The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. With a solid commitment to both scholarship and practice, Dr. Robinson works to ensure that research contributes to informed public policy.

In addition to her administrative duties, Dr. Robinson leads research projects on a variety of topics utilizing both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Notable recent projects include a three-state study evaluating the satisfaction of online services available through state government websites, an employee satisfaction survey for the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, and studies on the economic value of vocational rehabilitation for the state of Utah. She has served for 10 years on the University of Utah Veteran’s Day Committee, is a member of the Salt Lake Chamber’s Capitol Club, and serves on the St. Paul’s Preschool’s Board of Directors. In 2014, Governor Herbert appointed Dr. Robinson to the Utah Women in the Economy Commission.

Dr. Robinson is the co-author of two books: “Native Vote: American Indians, the Voting Rights Act, and the Right to Vote (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and “The Rise of the West in Presidential Elections” (University of Utah 2010). Dr. Robinson is also the published author of numerous book chapters and journal articles on voting rights, legal issues in higher education, and public administration.

Dr. Robinson earned her B.S. in Political Science, Master of Public Administration, and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Utah. In 2014 she was invited to participate in the National Security Strategy Seminar at the U.S. Army War College and received a Certificate of Leader Development. Prior to her work at the University of Utah Dr. Robinson worked for the Utah House of Representatives.

Dianne Meppen, B.S.
Director of Survey Research

Dianne Meppen is the director of survey research at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, specializing in aspects of survey research: client relations, establishing research objectives, developing research strategies, formulating concise and understandable survey instruments, overseeing data collection, evaluating data results, and presenting key findings and insights to clients.

Recently Ms. Meppen has led research projects evaluating employee satisfaction in the Department of Workforce services that included a survey of more 1,300 employees and focus groups throughout the state with employees. In 2014, she completed surveys of businesses in Utah, Arkansas, Indiana, and Kansas examining their satisfaction and use of services available through state government websites. Ms. Meppen is frequently a guest instructor in graduate courses on survey research at the University of Utah.

Ms. Meppen has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Utah State University and more than 30 years of experience in the survey industry. Prior to joining the University of Utah she worked as the research director at Dan Jones & Associates collaborating with a diverse set of clients to conduct high quality survey research.

John Downen, M.A.
Senior Research Analyst

John Downen serves as a senior research analyst, conducting local and regional economic studies and spatial analysis.

Mr. Downen’s recent projects include an analysis of a transfer of federal lands to the State of Utah, including analyzing the flow of federal land-based funds to the state of Utah and the state’s 29 counties as well as calculating the economic and fiscal impacts of various oil and gas, coal, and grazing scenarios. Mr. Downen completed the mapping and spatial analysis for the HUD Sustainable Communities Grant. In 2010, he created all visual mapping and produced the Salt Lake City Census 2010 Atlas. His recent Utah Economic and Business Review articles include “Neighborhood Characteristics of TRAX and FrontRunner Stations” (2014, Vol. 74, No. 1), “Mean Centers of Employment and Population on the Wasatch Front” (2012, Vol. 72, No. 3), and “The Economic Impacts of Utah’s International Exports” (2011, Vol. 71, No. 1).

Mr. Downen earned a B.A. in English with a minor in Physics from Georgetown University before earning his M.A. in Economics from Tulane University. Prior to joining the research team at the University of Utah, Mr. Downen held a wide variety of positions in California, Louisiana, and Montana, including technical editor for a large engineering firm, editorial assistant and copy editor for computer magazines, freelance editor, and research associate and publications and program coordinator for a small non-profit organization.

Jennifer Leaver, M.A.
Research Analyst

Jennifer Leaver, M.A.

Jennifer Leaver is a research analyst specializing in local, regional, and statewide tourism research.

Ms. Leaver is currently working on a study with the Utah Office of Tourism. As part of this contract, she writes and updates the “State of Utah’s Tourism, Travel and Recreation Industry” report, which is published annually in the Utah Economic and Business Review. In 2014, she made recommendations to the Office of Tourism regarding updates to existing tourism marketing performance fund legislation. In 2014, Ms. Leaver created 29 Utah county tourism profiles, which are updated annually and made available to county leaders and the general public online. In 2015 she will be producing a research brief focusing on the economic contributions of Utah’s tourism industry to Utah’s urban vs. rural regions.

Ms. Leaver received her B.A. in English from the University of Puget Sound and her M.A. in Applied Anthropology from Oregon State University. Prior to her time at the University of Utah, she spent seven years working as a policy specialist, research consultant, and information analyst for the State of Utah’s Department of Human Services.

To request a speaker or for more information, please fill out the form below.

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