AUSTIN, Texas — Former Texas state Rep. Mark Strama is joining The University of Texas at Austin as the director of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life. The institute, which is housed in the Moody College of Communication, prepares the next generation of civic leaders through education, research and professional development. Strama began his new role April 1.
Strama served for five terms in the Texas House of Representatives and later led Google Fiber’s deployment in Austin. Prior to serving in the Legislature, he worked at Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan, nationwide effort to register young voters, and he founded the first company to enable Americans to fill out a voter registration form on the internet.
“There’s never been a more important time to work on restoring the civic trust that binds us together as Americans,” Strama said. “I learned a long time ago that a lot of the solutions to society’s most difficult problems are best found by working with the next generation of civic leaders being developed at UT Austin.”
Strama hopes to expand the institute’s focus to local government issues, where he said the immediacy of political issues mitigates against ideology and polarization. He will also capitalize on his relationships in government to create opportunities for lawmakers to reach across the aisle, and on his experience in the technology industry to examine ways social media might help repair political divisions.
“We are extremely fortunate to have such an accomplished civic leader join the Annette Strauss Institute and the Moody College faculty,” said Moody College Dean Jay Bernhardt. “With his political and community outreach experience, Mark is the ideal person to lead the institute as it focuses on increasing civic engagement in our divergent political climate.”
Strama succeeds Moody College Communication Studies Professor Natalie Stroud, who served as interim director for the past year and a half and chaired the search for a new director.
“Mark Strama is a wonderful new addition to the Moody College,” Stroud said. “His background as an elected leader in Texas, his experience working with city governments across the nation and his enthusiasm for civic engagement are a fantastic combination for leading the Annette Strauss Institute in the years to come.”
In addition to his role as director of the Annette Strauss Institute, Strama will also teach courses in political communication and will focus on developing new programs and funding sources at the institute.