According to Eric Kirby, current executive director of the Michael O. Leavitt Center of Politics & Public Service, it is from humble beginnings and a desire to fill a need that something important forms, and that is exactly what happened 15 years ago to establish the Leavitt Center at Southern Utah University.
The success the Leavitt Center is currently receiving all began in 1998 when Craig Jones, emeritus professor of political science, envisioned an organization that would stimulate students’ interest in getting involved in the public affairs of their communities. As such, he felt that SUU was well suited to help promote the ideals that have helped form this region and nation.
It was with this idea that the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service was born.
Now 15 years later, the Center is quickly becoming the hub of all things political related to southern Utah, as stated by Kirby.
“We are the best kept secret in southern Utah,” claimed Kirby. “The Center is constantly hosting senators, organizing forums, arranging debates and stimulating conversations amongst students and community members. And through it all the activities maintain a non-partisan view to allow people to think for themselves and receive information from an unbiased voice.”
Within the last year the Center has been the instigator of hosting several senatorial and local mayoral debates, organized philanthropic enterprises on SUU’s campus, held weekly forums that address current issues, and consistently has its students acting as interns at the state and national levels of government.
Through each of these ventures, it is the students within the Leavitt Center’s executive council that are creating, organizing and instigating it all, an opportunity that Kirby states is essential to their career, no matter their desired field.
“I merely give them the door, these students are then required to open it,” he described. “We require a very high academic standard from our students and they consistently rise up to meet the challenge.”
But it’s not just SUU students that are benefiting from having the Leavitt Center on campus. All of southern Utah has the chance to engage in the political arena, without the fear that views will be skewed and hear from their local and regional political leaders.
“This Center allows the community to engage in the political arena, to come onto campus and to be more informed about events, issues and candidates. It truly serves a duel process,” explained Kirby.
In honor of the progress and accomplishments of the Michael O. Leavitt Center in these past 15 years, the entire University and campus community are invited to celebrate with a birthday bash. Two events will be held Friday, November 15, beginning at 10 a.m. in the Leavitt Center, located within the Sharwan Smith Student Center, refreshments will be available for all until 2 p.m.
Later that evening a more formal affair will be hosted at the Alumni House, on the corner of 300 West and University Blvd., from 6-8 p.m. where all are invited to meet the students involved with the Center, enjoy refreshments and see the upward trajectory the Center has placed itself on. Both events are free and open to the public.