Campus Life

Communications Prof. Goidel Picked To Lead PPRI

May 2, 2017


By Heather Rodriguez, Texas A&M University College of Liberal Arts

On March 16, after more than 30 years of directorship, Charles Johnson retired from the Public Policy Research Institute (PPRI), leaving it in the hands of Robert “Kirby” Goidel, a professor and fellow in the Department of Communication.

The Texas Legislature established PPRI in 1983 to conduct scientific research that would inform and influence public policy. Three years later, Johnson joined Texas A&M University as a full professor in the Department of Psychology, and was named PPRI’s first director.

“We are the largest organization in the Southwest that does this kind of policy research,” said Johnson, who is now director emeritus. “If you vote, go to court, are involved in public education or receive public funding for healthcare of any type, we have influenced the experience you’re going to have.”

Under Johnson’s directorship, the institute has secured over $145 million in research and service funds, becoming the largest university-based policy research organization in the southwest. Consistent with the Land Grant philosophy, the institute’s goal is to bring the power of university research to the benefit of ordinary citizens.

PPRI has played a major role in various policy decisions including President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which promotes the intervention by civic leaders in the lives of young men of color to address their unique challenges and promote racial justice. Recently, a research team from the institute received a grant for more than $750,000 to study the link between immigration and school safety, education, and juvenile justice.

In 2015, PPRI received the Michael K. Moore Award, which is conferred by the Texas State Bar Association for “excellence in research and writing in the areas of indigent criminal defense.”

“The primary driver of my decision to retire at this point was the confidence I have in the research staff, abundant projects, and the leadership capability of Dr. Goidel,” Johnson said. “Indeed, I am looking forward to watching PPRI flourish for many years to come.”

Goidel, who specializes in political communication, joined Liberal Arts in 2014 as part of the university’s efforts to strengthen democracy. He received his degree from the University of Kentucky, and later served as the chair of Political Science at Indiana State University. He joined PPRI from a similar high-level research center at Louisiana State University, where he served as director.

“Dr. Johnson has taken the PPRI from a small two-person operation to the point where we are now, when we are as big as most academic departments,” Goidel said. “I’d like us to continue the good work we are already doing, and inform not just the state on legislative issues but also tell but also tell the story of the what the PPRI is and the work we are doing to a larger audience.”

Goidel also hopes to bridge the gap between PPRI and the college’s teaching and research missions, and gain wider publication in leading academic journals.

“Dr. Goidel’s prior experience and his more recent academic appointments in PPRI and Department of Communication in the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University make him well-suited to assume the directorship,” said College of Liberal Arts Dean Pamela Matthews. “I am looking forward to seeing the effects of his new leadership.”

Goidel is also optimistic about PPRI’s future.

“There’s a real strength here and we want to build from that strength” Goidel said. “And I hope I can contribute in that way.”


This story by Heather Rodriguez was originally posted on the College of Liberal Arts website.

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