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Loyola’s Institute of Politics Celebrates 30 Years

Loyola press release - September 15, 1999

(New Orleans)—For 30 years, Loyola’s Institute of Politics (IOP) has been the beginning of the journey for the politically-minded man or woman who aspires to hold an elected position, manage a campaign, or become a community activist. It also has been a training ground for representatives from the media who want to cover the political process.

The roster of the nearly 900 fellows who have participated in the 20-session program reads like a list of who’s who in the New Orleans political arena. Notables include: former Congressman Robert "Bob" Livingston, Congressman David Vitter, State Senators Jon Johnson and Michael R. Robichaux, M.D., State Representatives Sherman Copelin, Charles Lancaster, Edwin Murray, and Jennifer Sneed. In addition to about a dozen judges, the list also includes New Orleans City Council members Suzanne Terrell and Oliver Thomas as well as former council member Peggy Wilson.

Other fellows may not be as well-known, but they play significant roles in the political process and their contributions are just as important as those of the elected officials. They are the campaign managers, volunteers, community activists, and journalists. The course proves to be an invaluable source of information to journalists. To date, 50 journalists and media representatives have completed the IOP fellowship. Notable journalists who have completed the program include: Linda Lightfoot, executive editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate; Walter Isaacson, managing editor of Time Magazine; Dean Baquet, national editor of The New York Times; Clancy DuBos, publisher of Gambit; James Gill, columnist for The Times-Picayune; and Karen Swensen, WWL-TV reporter.

"Since its inception, the IOP has remained committed to its original mission which is the political process," says Ed Renwick, director of the IOP since 1970 and a political science professor at Loyola University New Orleans. "Our focus has been Louisiana politics; specifically, the political climate in the New Orleans region."

Unlike university courses in political science, the IOP is not only concerned with the history and philosophy of politics and government; instead, the Institute concentrates its efforts on examining just how those principles bear on the day-to-day functions of elected officials and political candidates.

Participants are selected based on such qualities as leadership potential, political motivations, and diversity. "We want the group of fellows to represent a diverse group — Democrat, Republican — black, white — Conservative, Liberal," states Renwick. "We are bringing people together who ordinarily would not be together. We want the participants to bond and understand how issues affect different groups."

Each of the sessions includes a presentation and group discussion conducted by a guest lecturer of local, state, or national prominence. In recent years, speakers have included Jerry Doty, historian of Louisiana politics; C.B. Forgotson, prominent lobbyist; New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial; Jefferson Parish President Tim Coulon; State Representative Mitch Landrieu; campaign strategist Bill Schultz; Boston Globe correspondent Curtis Wilkie; and public relations consultants Jim Carvin, James Farwell, and Ray Teddlie.

All discussions are considered off the record to allow participants and speakers the opportunity to be candid about their experiences and address sensitive and controversial subjects. Topics have included the history of Louisiana politics, the state of current politics, campaign strategy, organization, financing, polling, fund-raising, public relations, governmental structure, interest groups, newspapers, the electronic media, and social change. Would-be politicians and campaign managers also receive practical hands-on

knowledge on how to run a campaign including everything from "knocking doors" to actually producing, taping, and critiquing campaign commercials.

For the fellows, the insights and political astuteness of Renwick, the consultants and elected officials are what make the program so successful. "I found the extraordinary insights into the electoral process and the first-person experiences of the many elected officials, consultants, and Renwick most valuable," explains Timothy McElroy, first assistant to the District Attorney for the Parish of Orleans who has 16 years experience in the DA’s office.

The IOP was formed in 1968 with a grant from the Stern Family Fund. Later funding came through the Ford Foundation; however, by the mid ’70s, funding through foundations ended and the IOP became self-sustaining. Today, the Institute relies solely on tuition and proceeds from its yearly fund-raiser.

On Sunday, October 17, 1999, from 6 - 8 p.m., the IOP will mark its 30th anniversary with a fund-raiser at the home of Gambit publishers Clancy and Margo Dubos. The celebration will include the movers and shakers of the political scene — elected officials, campaign managers, and journalists. Tickets are $100 per couple or $50 for a single ticket. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Gayle Mumfrey at 865-3548.