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Mike Lawrence and Paul Simon pose in front of Public Policy Institute
Our founder, Paul Simon, right, sits outside the Institute's building on the SIU Carbondale campus with Mike Lawrence, left, the Institute's first associate director.


Famous for wearing bow ties and horn-rimmed glasses, Paul Simon was a two-term U.S. Senator from Illinois (1985-1997), and a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for the 1988 United States presidential election. After leaving public office, Paul Simon was passionate about creating a place to research and provide constructive public policy resources, encourage others to take part in conversations on the issues of our time, and support the next generation of public leaders.

In 1997, Simon decided to go back to his roots of southern Illinois and establish the then-named Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. After his passing in 2003, the Institute was renamed the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute to honor Simon's legacy.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization focused on promoting better politics and smarter government and preparing students for careers in public service. The Institute does this through a number of research initiatives, bringing experts and leaders to the Institute to offer free lectures to students and the community, and providing opportunities for students to learn about public policy first hand through internships across the state.

Mission Statement

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale acts on significant and controversial issues impacting the region, the state, the nation, and the world.

It is committed to developing and working to implement approaches that could bring concrete, positive results in tackling some of the most difficult challenges in the public policy arena.

The institute focuses its efforts on fostering:

  • Ethical conduct in government
  • Opportunity and fair treatment for people in America and throughout the world
  • Promoting responsible citizenship for all Americans – but particularly for young Americans

Want to know more about the history of the Institute?

Read about previous directors >>>

Mike Lawrence
Institute Director 

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David Yepsen
Institute Director

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