Former legislator named fellow

Karlee Weinmann

For former Minnesota state legislator Steve Kelley, lawmaking might be out, but school is back in session.

On Feb. 1, Kelley was appointed as a Humphrey Institute senior fellow, voted in unanimously by faculty members.

Kelley will work with the Institute’s Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy conducting research in the areas of math and science education policy, telecommunications and information technology and improving education with technological tools.

While serving as a DFL-endorsed District 44A representative from 1993 until 1996 and as District 44 senator from 1997 until 2006, he was a recognized education advocate.

Kelley most notably served as chair of the education committee and championed Minnesota Twins stadium efforts.

“It seemed like there was a good fit between working at the Humphrey and also continuing to work on some of the public policy issues I’m also interested in,” he said.

Assistant professor and interim director of the Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy Jennifer Kuzma requested a senior fellow for the program.

A search committee sought out Kelley, who then gave a presentation to Humphrey Institute students and faculty detailing his experience and areas of interest. His credentials were weighed against ideal senior fellow qualifications, and a review panel recommended his appointment.

“Steve Kelley has been a leader in technology policy in the state for years,” Kuzma said. “It’s just a natural fit for him to come to our center.”

Humphrey Institute Dean Brian Atwood agreed with the recommendation, and after a faculty vote, Kelley was appointed.

“He knows the whole gamut,” Atwood said. “He knows about telecommunications, a lot about the environment, the issues surrounding biogenetics and ethanol and all of those things based on his experience in legislature.”

Atwood estimated an average of one senior fellow is appointed each year, each guaranteed a three-year term followed by an evaluation that determines progress at the post.

Unpaid by the University, senior fellows conduct research and are responsible for earning their wages through grant funds.

Though Kelley will now be working on campus, the former lawmaker said his absence at the Capitol does not translate to an absence from political activism.

“I’m very interested in policy work that leads to real changes, because I’m still committed to the idea that it’s important to try to make a difference and working at the Humphrey Institute is a continued opportunity to do that,” he said.

Kelley has worked with the Humphrey Institute before, a relationship he said fully blossomed when he was elected to legislature in the early ’90s.

He has aided in research projects and served on several panels, including those in his current areas of focus.

Joe Nathan, a senior fellow and director of the Center for School Change, taught students who worked on research Kelley used for a bill.

“(Kelley) can expand learning opportunities for students in terms of doing research and learning how the legislative process works,” he said. “Secondly, he can expand opportunities for faculty members to work collaboratively with members of the state legislature, so the research faculty members are doing can be used to help inform public policy.”

Humphrey Institute student Chris Mitchell, a research assistant working with the program affiliated with Kelley, said he is excited about what the former senator’s addition will bring.

“I think he’s still a very big part of (the political scene),” he said. “It’s not like the people he knew have forgotten him, and he’s still doing a lot of very good work.”

Kelley said he is willing to use his political experience to link those in governmental power with the Humphrey Institute community.

“Knowing people who are able to influence policy and being able to connect them to the researchers at the University could be very helpful to the work of both groups of people,” he said.

Following suit with other senior fellows, Kelley said he hopes to teach a fall semester course. Additionally, he intends to position himself as a resource for Humphrey Institute professionals.

Kelley’s addition is a welcome one for Harry Boyte, senior fellow and co-director for the Center of Democracy and Citizenship, who said Kelley’s broad expertise will lessen divisions between faculty members and senior fellows.

“Everyone tends to kind of stay in their own disciplines,” he said. “He crosses different disciplines from economic, to education policy, to telecommunications and civic policy, so people will turn to him or involve him in different projects.”

Mitchell said many students might still be unaware of Kelley’s appointment, but it would be difficult to find someone in opposition.

Similarly, Boyte said unfamiliarity should not be mistaken for a lack of support or esteem.

“Those people who know his work respect it a lot. It’s high- quality policy work,” he said.