Blog Post

When stars align

By: Natalie Gochnour

Originally published in Utah Business

I’ve learned over the years to pay attention when stars align in a powerful way. It happened when my daughter, who was attending an out-of-state college, landed a job with the school paper, committed to a major and established great friendships. Suddenly, her college education and experience took off. It happened when Urban Meyer brought his coaching skills to build a team with a 22-2 record and reinvigorated the MUSS, or the Mighty Utah Student Section, at Rice Eccles Stadium. Stellar coaching and engaged students helped the Utes win and laid the foundation for a winning program.

When stars align, a better future unfolds. I’m always working and watching for these moments. And one of those moments happened last month, when the University of Utah launched the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

The Fabric of the Community

The Policy Institute will be an enduring community asset that will help our state make informed decisions. To be located in the iconic Wall Mansion on South Temple, it will bring approximately 30 economists, demographers, analysts, faculty advisors, graduate assistants and interns off the Hill and into the fabric of downtown Salt Lake City. It will align two important stars in our state: the flagship state university and the community it serves. By aligning “town and gown,” Utah will be better able to build a prosperous future. As the director of the new Policy Institute, I’m excited about the prospects.

Others share this enthusiasm. Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank and co-chair of the Policy Institute advisory board, spoke specifically to this point at the launch of the Policy Institute at the Utah State Capitol. He quoted former University of Utah president John A. Widstoe, who spoke about the role of the U in the Beehive State: “I hope to see this institution enter the very life of our state; to help solve its problems, to point its way, to help bear its burdens as well as to share in its prosperity.”
As a native Salt Laker and University of Utah graduate, I love these sentiments. State universities like the U are inextricably intertwined with the success of the state.
President David Pershing echoed these comments in his remarks at the launch as well. He said the Policy Institute will be a place where the state’s flagship university serves Utah. True to his vision, when the Wall Mansion re-opens in spring 2016, after a $9-million restoration, it will become a vital gathering place for thought leadership and serve as an embassy for the U downtown.

Informed Decisions

Gail Miller, chairman of the board of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies and co-chair of the Policy Institute advisory board, said Utah is a wonderful place to work and live, but it also has tremendous needs. She referenced a growing homeless population that “needs our love and attention.” She described children in school settings where they are not succeeding. She spoke of healthcare services and how many struggle to pay for care. She said, “I believe when you give people in Utah good data and accurate information, they do the right things.”
The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute will provide data and information to help decision makers do the right things.

Many community leaders support this vision. Gov. Mitt Romney and Gov. Mike Leavitt have agreed to be conveners of an annual symposium hosted by the Policy Institute. The advisory board includes a cross section of senior and emerging leaders from a variety of industries and geographic locations. The Governor’s Office of Economi