The newly founded Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service is set to host a kickoff event on Wednesday to demonstrate how it will positively affect Weber State University and what the institute has to offer. The kickoff event will feature a governors’ panel in the Shepherd Union Building’s Wildcat Theater at 11:30 a.m., followed by an invitation-only luncheon.

For the event, the Walker Institute is bringing in former and current Utah governors to address issues relevant to the WSU community. Attendees will include KSL radio personality Doug Wright, former governors Norman Bangerter, Mike Leavitt (via webcast), Olene Walker, and current governor Gary Herbert.

“All students are encouraged to come,” said Nena Slighting, who has been working to set up the institute and acting as a sort of director until a new one is found for the organization.

The Walker Institute falls under the department of political science and philosophy. The nonpartisan institute came about as a result of discussions between WSU President Ann Millner and Walker, Utah’s first female governor.

“Governor Walker, she decided about two years ago that she wanted to leave all of her documents with an  institution where they could be utilized for research and writing purposes, and to archive all of her papers somewhere,” Slighting said. “They finally decided last year that, as part of leaving her papers, wouldn’t it be great to create an institute where she actually got students and community members involved in the political process and created opportunities for students?”

Walker attended her freshman year at WSU and has roots in the Ogden area.

The Walker Institute now has four major focuses: political and civic leadership, internship opportunities, community involvement, and research and scholarship. Hopes are that the organization will bring about a greater understanding of political processes and provide an area that facilitates discussion and engagement among the whole community.

“Governor Walker’s whole idea was if we engage students now and provide opportunities through internship programs, through forums, through debates, through all of this, that then they will turn around and have a desire to serve and give back to their community, and really kind of step up and take those leadership positions,” Slighting said.

David Madrigal, a WSU freshman studying political science, said the ability to be more involved through campus entities like the Walker Institute is very valuable.

“I’ve got an internship scheduled next year,” he said. “It’s with the Second District courts, and I think it will be great, kind of stepping away from the books and getting that real-world experience. You’re able to see what’s outside just classrooms, see what you’re working toward. . . . I think when she (Walker) was governor, her whole kind of motto, if you say, was just ‘Everyone do something. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be major. It can be as simple as voting. But engage in some small way.’ And so that’s kind of our goal.”

Slighting said she encourages any students interested in getting involved with the Walker Institute to attend the kickoff event or visit the Walker Institute in the Social Science Building, Room 343. More information on the Walker Institute can be found at www.weber.edu/walkerinstitute.

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