A ‘bridge’ from research to response

Pat Brown Institute grows community awareness, engagement in the issues of the day

A panel of experts led a panel discussion on the state of higher education.

For more than two decades, the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs has had its hand on the political pulse of the region and state.

Through thought-provoking forums and seminars, the Cal State L.A. presidentially-chartered institute has stimulated conversations among diverse groups that encompass an array of socioeconomic, racial, ethnic and political backgrounds. Community projects and programs have provided access to educational, career and advancement opportunities. And community-inspired research has been a critical bridge between theory and real change.

“Cal State L.A. has a tremendous jewel in the Pat Brown Institute (PBI),” said alumnus David Galaviz ’93, an executive administrator for government relations at the University of Southern California, who got his political footing as a student scholar.

“It is of great service to the students, to the community and also to public policy-making bodies,” he added. “PBI has a reputation of being an institute that is not only going to do a great job of representing diverse viewpoints, but is also going to get to the heart of the matter, with the right people in the room. PBI is able to bring it all together.”

The non-partisan public policy center is dedicated to sustaining the vision and legacy of its namesake, former California Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, who is described as having wanted a place that moved beyond theory and reflection, to result in positive action. PBI joined Cal State L.A.’s campus in 1987; before that, it operated as a nonprofit center out of Brown’s law offices beginning in 1980.

“Hitting the ground, making an impact and doing things on the streets that actually mean something to the people is going to be a legacy of the institute,” said Executive Director Jaime Regalado ’71, ’73 M.A., who has been at the helm since 1991. “We have built together not only an impressive policy center, but communities and the relationships on the ground, which is unique.”

Over the years, the PBI has led many initiatives for change, including the Gang Violence Bridging Project and Community Policing Training Program—started within the first few years of Regalado’s leadership—as well as the more recent Health Policy Outreach Center. Each year, PBI also coordinates policy-making internships for graduate and undergraduate students at local, regional and national levels.

Jaime Regalado
Jaime Regalado.

“I’ve had the wonderful opportunity over the course of many years to link purpose and research with people,” Regalado said, noting that the student-initiated Gang Violence Bridging Project was one of its most powerful endeavors. By helping students stay in school, building community awareness and education, while aiding young adults in the transition from gang life to college, the project transformed many lives.

“Having a place where other students looked and talked like you was very comforting,” said alumnus Remi De La Rocha, who participated in the project as a student and then as an employee. “It allowed us to actually do well.”

In addition to the Institute’s work in the streets, PBI is also recognized for developing an annual forum and speaker series that shines light onto the day’s major movements and topics of discussion. In the last year, for instance, the California Agenda series has featured high level discussions on everything from the impact of the economic crisis on higher education to the building of a National Football League stadium in Los Angeles (Click to listen to a podcast). In June, the Institute pondered the state’s energy environment, and in October, it will forecast California’s economic future.

“The PBI has been pivotal in getting real information out into the community,” said former student fellow and alumnus Blayne Sutton-Wills ’93. “A lot of folks are frustrated about policies, programs and certain things, but they don’t necessarily know how it came to be. The Pat Brown Institute provides an answer.”

Many describe PBI and Cal State L.A. as being the “perfect marriage”—a leading research center at the heart of a community that reflects the city’s future. They credit much of the success to the dedication and expertise of its staff and advisory board, along with Regalado’s passionate leadership.

“It’s been a long haul, but I wouldn’t have done it any differently,” Regalado said. “The vast majority of us who are here at Cal State L.A. are here because the students really need us. We choose to give back.”