Portman, UC create policy center

The University of Cincinnati and former U.S. Sen. Rob Portman have created the Portman Center for Policy Solutions to encourage results-oriented public service.

The Portman Center will focus on developing future leaders who practice civility, open and inclusive dialogue and bipartisan engagement to achieve results.

Former U.S. Sen. Rob Portman

The newly established Portman Center will provide academic programming and support for students and will be housed within UC’s School of Public and International Affairs. The Portman Center will host one signature symposium every year that will focus on important policy issues facing the nation.

UC’s Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the Portman Center at its regular meeting on Feb. 28. Earlier this year, SPIA’s faculty voted unanimously in support of the Portman Center’s formation.

The Portman Center’s mission is to inspire students, faculty, and community partners to grow as citizen-leaders who advance the public good.

Portman said UC was the natural choice for the Portman Center due to the university’s deep commitment to its public mission and history of innovation spanning more than 200 years.

“I view this center as a way to encourage young people to engage in public service that focuses on civility, bipartisanship and finding common ground,” Portman said. “Too many are understandably turned off by excessive partisanship, gridlock, and harsh language in today’s political dialogue. The center will highlight specific examples of successful legislative efforts and introduce students to public officials from both parties who have successfully worked across the aisle to achieve results for their constituents. Such collaboration is the only way to find solutions to our nation’s toughest problems.”

Portman is known as one of the most prolific legislators of his generation, with an extraordinary 228 of his bills signed into law by Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden. Portman’s career in public service spanned three decades and included service in four presidential administrations, as well as two terms in the United States Senate and six terms in the United States House of Representatives.

Developing the next generation of bipartisan leaders is a priority for Portman, and the Portman Center will provide scholarship support, internships and co-op opportunities for students chosen as Portman Fellows. It is the Portman Center’s goal that its programming and support of its Portman Fellows will lead to the development of practical and effective policy solutions.

Portman is helping raise funds for the endowment of the Portman Center, which will in turn support student scholarship. Portman is partnering with the University of Cincinnati Foundation to grow the Portman Center’s endowment to at least $5 million. He is also donating U.S. House and Senate papers and other materials that may be used by Portman Fellows as case studies on how finding common ground and solving problems is possible when the nation’s political leaders practice civility, respect different points of view, and reach across the aisle.

Centers and schools dedicated to public affairs have been named after, and supported by, other elected officials, such as the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at the Ohio State University, the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service at Ohio University.

However, according to Richard Harknett, a professor and director of UC’s public affairs department, the Portman Center will be unique in its focus on developing future leaders from across the political spectrum, through a renewed emphasis on civility and bipartisan engagement.

“The vision of the Portman Center advances our mutual interest in building trust in democratic institutions and civil political exchange,” Harknett said. “It will make a tremendous impact for decades to come in advancing policy solutions through a new generation of citizen-leaders committed to democratic processes. The entire faculty of SPIA are excited about the opportunity to engage UC students in an active learning experience about how American democracy works, when it works well.”

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