Former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson joins Ball State faculty

Topics: Indianapolis Center, College of Architecture and Planning, College of Sciences and Humanities

May 8, 2008

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Former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson meets with members of the press at the university~~~s Indianapolis Center on May 8, 2008. Peterson has accepted an appointment as distinguished visiting professor of public policy at Ball State and will teach a graduate course at the Indianapolis Center this fall.
Bart Peterson, former two-term mayor of Indianapolis and most recently a fellow with the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, has accepted an appointment as distinguished visiting professor of public policy at Ball State University.

Peterson initially will lead a graduate course in metropolitan problems at the university's Indianapolis Center during the upcoming fall semester, explained President Jo Ann M. Gora, adding that the one-time chief of staff for then-Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh also will teach a class in community planning on the main campus in spring 2009.

Both courses will be co-listed by the Department of Political Science and the College of Architecture and Planning, include an undergraduate component and be simulcast by closed-circuit videoconference between the two sites.

In addition, Peterson will deliver between two and four public lectures for both campus and community audiences and conduct up to five workshops for community leaders around the state as an outreach effort of the university's Bowen Center for Public Affairs, though the schedule and locations for those sessions are yet to be determined.

"For eight years beginning in 2000, Bart Peterson led America's 12th-largest city, confronting all of the challenges that trouble many of the nation's urban centers - crime, industry and job loss, deteriorating infrastructure, failing schools," Gora said. "His initiative and commitment in addressing those problems and many others not only have improved the quality of life for residents of Indianapolis, they've also propelled the state's capital city to new levels of recognition among government, business and civic leaders across the country. Our students are privileged to have the opportunity to learn from his experience, and I welcome Bart to our faculty with great anticipation and excitement."

When first tapped by Indianapolis voters to be mayor in November 1999, Peterson became the first Democrat to win that office in more than a quarter-century. He previously served as executive assistant for environmental affairs and later as chief of staff for former Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh from 1989 to 1995.

"As an admirer of the innovative work going on at Ball State and its commitment to excellence, I am excited to become part of the university family," said Peterson. "President Gora and her team have offered me the opportunity to do two things I love:  to continue to work on the challenges and opportunities facing cities and to help students on their paths toward their futures.

"My experience over the last few months at Harvard's Institute of Politics has reinvigorated my long-standing desire to work in higher education. I hope my students will benefit from the passion for teaching and municipal policy issues I will bring, and I know I will benefit from interacting with the bright minds that will shape Indiana's future."

Peterson received his bachelor's degree from Purdue University in 1980 and a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1983.

At the conclusion of his administration in Indianapolis, he also had just completed serving his term as president of the National League of Cities, the oldest and largest national organization representing municipal governments throughout the United States. In 2006, his initiative promoting local charter schools was honored by Harvard with its prestigious Innovations in American Government Award, which recognized Indianapolis as a national model for improving public education.

"Although we had no previous direct association with Bart, we have noticed that Indianapolis tends to produce some pretty good mayors. We've also noticed that, on leaving office, they seem to go straight on to Harvard," said Joseph Losco, chair of the Department of Political Science at Ball State, noting that former Indianapolis mayor William Hudnut (1976-1991) also is a past fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, while Stephen Goldsmith (Hudnut's successor from 1992 to 1999) is a current member of the faculty.

"With the creation of this distinguished visiting professorship, we hope to take advantage of Bart's long experience in both state and local government as well as benefit from the insights he's gained from his time at one of the world's premier institutes for political thought," Losco said.

While focused on issues of public policy and planning, Losco said the courses to be led by Peterson are open to all Ball State students, regardless of major. He expects that up to 20 students will be able to enroll for the first class on metropolitan problems at the Indianapolis Center and, given the availability of larger instructional spaces on the main campus, that as many as 50 students could be accepted for the spring semester class on community planning.

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