GCC Center Gains Clout: Policy Group is Pushing Ideas

GROVE CITY – Although one of the focuses of Grove City College’s Center for Vision and Values remains on the community, the recently formed think tank is having an impact on public policy on a national level.

The Center for Vision and Values, established in April 2004, has at its center two concepts long associated with the college: An interest in public policy and a commitment to freedom. The center seeks to strengthen commitment to those concepts by providing a framework for the college’s professors to perform research into them and then making the conclusions of that research known to the public through various forms of commentary.

According to Lee Wishing, the center’s administrative director, establishing the foundation on serious, faith-based scholarship differentiates the Center for Vision and Values from many public policy organizations in that much of the commentary put forward would be based on the center’s own research. That goal is still in progress, but already the center has organized about 40 of the college’s professors into nine research groups, which will eventually each produce at least one lengthy research paper per year.

It is hoped that the research presented in the papers will eventually be used to determine public policy. Already, a paper written by Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor, is being used by a Denver school. Some poverty-related papers regarding the establishment of a violence-free zone in Pittsburgh may catch the attention of some policy makers.

“Possibly, down the road, these papers will have a real impact on Pittsburgh,” Wishing said.

The issue of poverty in America was also the theme of the center’s first conference, held in April.

This April’s conference, titled “Mr. Jefferson Goes to the Middle East,” will address the prospects of democracy in that region.

The annual conferences are designed for students who attend for college credit but also for members of the surrounding community and beyond, said Paul Kengor, executive director of the center.

“It’s important for the local community to see what is taking place here. We see a key element of putting on these conferences as a form of continuing education for the community,” Kengor said. “I’d be thrilled if we had hundreds, if not thousands, of people a year coming to these things. If we can contribute to the intellectual life of the community, that’s a good thing.”

To make the ideas of conference speakers more accessible to attendees from the community, the center publishes a suggested reading list before the conference.

While participating in the work of the center gives the college’s faculty an outlet for pursuing scholarly interests, it also gives each professor the opportunity to expand the number of people he or she teaches, Kengor said.

On average, a professor might teach about 100 students each year in college classes. Through the center, ideas are taken to the surrounding community and then beyond.

“We’ve got a terrific faculty here, and it’s really important to broaden their audience beyond the classroom. Through this think tank and our outreach to a national audience, we can increase that base to literally hundreds of thousands,” Kengor said.

By disseminating the professors’ opinion-editorial pieces to more than 7,000 media outlets all over the country, the center takes the faculty’s teaching to thousands and maybe even millions of people.

“What I’m surprised by is the early success we’ve had on a national level,” Wishing said.

The center has been successful in getting editorial pieces published in many well-known newspapers, including the New York Times, New York Post, Washington Times and the L.A. Daily News. Faculty involved with the think tank have also appeared on national news programs on MSNBC, C-SPAN and Fox News and have been asked to speak on radio programs.

Many invitations for speakers and media appearances come after a talk show host or producer sees a professor’s editorial piece printed, Kengor said.

More information about this April’s conference can be found by going to www.visandvals.org.