May 3, 2023

School of Public and International Affairs Launches NJ-Focused Policy Initiative

By Donald Gilpin

Stuart Rabner

Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), best known for its extensive international scope, with scholars and programs “shaping public policy around the world,” according to its website, is ramping up its focus on issues closer to home.

About 200 students, professors, officials from state and local New Jersey government, and others from across the Garden State, gathered in SPIA’s Arthur Lewis Auditorium in Robertson Hall last Friday morning, April 28 to help launch the SPIA in New Jersey initiative. 

A longtime advocate for increasing SPIA’s footprint in New Jersey, SPIA Dean Amaney Jamal, who is also a professor of politics at the University, welcomed the participants to the three-and-a-half-hour event. 

“This morning you will hear from a distinguished group of New Jerseyans from across the political spectrum who have made meaningful contributions to cities and communities in our state,” she said. “Their presence here today reflects our commitment to take the research-driven nonpartisan approach to promote policies that foster racial, economic, and social justice statewide.” 

The keynote speaker, New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, later affirmed the important role of Princeton University and SPIA in providing expert insights, research, and scholarly engagement in policy-making in New Jersey public affairs.

”I don’t have to tell you that throughout the nation, the leadership role this University plays is so widely known, and that applies to SPIA as well — professors, graduate fellows, and its students,” said Rabner, who received his undergraduate degree from SPIA in 1982. “What better place to turn to for assistance for research-based public policy that advances racial, social, and economic justice in the state of New Jersey.”

After speaking in particular about progress that the state judiciary has made in the areas of criminal justice, particularly bail reform, and in the justice system’s response to individuals suffering from mental illness, Rabner closed by congratulating SPIA on the kickoff of its New Jersey initiative. ”We look forward to working with you on these challenging issues. I wish you success for a very simple reason: it will help the people of our state.”

Anastasia Mann, founding director of SPIA in New Jersey, went a step further in highlighting the program’s goals and endeavors. “Whether it’s climate, health care, housing, immigration, education, public finance, or any number of other issue areas, SPIA faculty, students, and researchers are teaming up with partners statewide to ask hard questions and find policy solutions,” said Mann. She emphasized the importance of “cross-fertilization among researchers, advocates, organizers, policymakers, and elected officials.”

Highlights of the April 28 launch also included discussions with two panels of experts on “Mt. Laurel at 40: The Past and Future of Affordable Housing” and “Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis in New Jersey”; a keynote address by John Farmer, former New Jersey attorney general, and now director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University; and Richard Roper’s reflections on his 12 years of running the SPIA’s former Council on New Jersey Affairs.

“New Jersey is one of the most populous and influential states in the union, and its most densely populated,” said Jamal as quoted in a University press release. “We are proud of the myriad strengths of our home state and also clear-eyed about the challenges it faces. I believe SPIA has an obligation to bring to bear its significant intellectual resources to better the lives of our neighbors.