The City of Jackson has hired Jackson State University’s Institute of Government to help develop a plan for spending a special tax for infrastructure needs and to help the city develop an overall strategic plan.
“Cities all over the country are using universities — their professors and the research they produce — to solve problems,” Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman said at the Jackson City Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 26. “We’ve not used Jackson State enough in the past. I urge my colleagues to pass this ordinance.”
The measure passed after Mayor Tony Yarber and Ward 3 Councilwoman Larita Cooper-Stokes echoed Tillman’s sentiments.
“I see that former Councilman Kenneth Stokes has left the room,” Yarber said. “I know he’s been saying this for a while. I want to make sure he sees that we are getting our act together.”
Otha Burton, the Institute of Government’s executive director, said he was pleased about the vote.
“We are very excited this opportunity has developed for both the university and the Institute of Government,” Burton, who was present at the City Council meeting, said afterwards. “These two things do tie together and we have excellent team in place. We are ready to hit the ground running.”
Burton said he expects the Institute of Government, currently housed on campus, when it moves into its downtown facility early next year.
The building, at 101 W. Capitol St., will also be the new home of the Mississippi Urban Research Center and part of the College of Public Service.
Burton, who recently toured the facility with President Carolyn W. Meyers, Provost James C. Renick and others, said it would also foster professional development for students through meaningful research.
“There are organizations waiting for us to get down there – the Chamber of Commerce, City of Jackson. Many are looking forward to that as a resource,” Burton said. “The beauty of the downtown JSU campus is that it will house urban programs and increase our potential to reach out and bring in new clientele.”
Burton says that the space will be “a place where we can continue to launch programs for Institute of Government.” This will include on-site training, forums, and professional research. One of the programs is a polling center.
“We are in talks with a company out of New England” to develop the center “but, it will be JSU’s polling center,” says Burton.
Meyers and Renick echoed Burton’s sentiments about the Institute of Government’s potential impact.
“This is a great opportunity to increase our footprint downtown and — given our proximity to the state Legislature and the services we will offer governmental entities — throughout the state,” President Carolyn W. Meyers said.
Said Renick: “The creation of the downtown campus will allow Jackson State to provide more educational opportunities for the citizens of Mississippi and enliven the urban mission of the university.”
Two programs in the College of Public Service – Public Policy and Administration and Urban and Regional Planning – will occupy classroom space on the second and third floors.
Ricardo Brown, dean of the College Public Service, was also among those who toured the facility. Brown believes the new campus will offer students access to growth potential the current location at the University Center is not able to facilitate.
“This moves students closer to lawmakers,” Brown said, referencing networking and outreach potential. “The downtown campus encourages synergy and creates an ecosystem to entice students within innovative learning spaces.”