In connection with the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, The University of Texas at Austin has appointed King Davis founding director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis.
Davis, professor and Robert Lee Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy in the School of Social Work and former executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, served as interim director of the institute in 2010 and 2011, and will begin his new role effective immediately. Davis joined The University of Texas at Austin in 2000 after serving as commissioner of the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse and as a faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University.
"The investment by The University of Texas in this new institute reflects the personal commitment of President Powers and his administration," Davis said. "I am delighted to have the opportunity to help shape the mission and vision of the institute and its initial research projects."
The institute's initial focus will be on the state of Texas.
"Despite our iconic rural image, more than 80 percent of Texans live in cities. Texas needs better urban policy, and we can't improve that without good data on the populations that make up our cities, especially populations of color," said President Bill Powers. "King Davis is the perfect leader for this important new effort. His academic and professional background and the enormous respect he commands from his colleagues bodes well for the institute's future."
Developed in 2010 through collaborative efforts of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and the College of Liberal Arts, the institute's mission is to conduct and promote the production of policy-relevant research with the aim of enhancing the lives of African-Americans and other communities of color.
"I applaud the selection of Dr. Davis to lead this vitally important institute," said Rep. Sylvester Turner, chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. "His expertise and dedication will bring the institute to the forefront of positive change in the African American community in Texas."
In its first year the new institute will work to develop a permanent database and interactive maps on the demographic characteristics of the African-American population and other populations of color in Texas from 1950 to 2010, as well as the completion of three policy reports critical to these populations, with recommendations for changes in policies. The institute will have an initial staff of four doctoral-level policy researchers and two post-doctoral research staffers. Additional research staffers will be hired as external grants are obtained by the institute.
Key research initiatives include studies on HIV/AIDS policy in Texas and U.S. prisons, minimum wage policy and implications for women of color in Texas, implications of national health insurance policy on communities of color, and the national housing policy for the mentally ill. The institute will also research policy recommendations for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
"The institute will serve as an invaluable scholarly resource for the analysis of public policies," said Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "Under Professor Davis' leadership, I know it is well-poised to make a tremendous impact on people's lives."