UMSL taps Paul Evensen to lead Public Policy Research Center

Paul Evensen

Paul Evensen has assumed leadership of UMSL’s Public Policy Research Center, replacing Mark Tranel, who will become emeritus director. Evensen has been the founder and executive director of Social Innovation STL since 2015 and is bringing his work and his connections – along with the Social Innovation STL staff of three full-time employees – with him to UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Paul Evensen, the founder and executive director of Social Innovation STL, has assumed leadership of the Public Policy Research Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Kristin Sobolik announced today.

Evensen was chosen after a nationwide search to replace Mark Tranel, who will become emeritus director.

He is already well-connected across the St. Louis community through his work with Social Innovation STL, which he launched in 2015 with a mission “to forge bold and innovative programs, organizations, and collective efforts for a more inclusive, healthy and just St. Louis region.” It serves as an intermediary creating infrastructure for the nonprofit sector to work more effectively by facilitating and supporting partnerships.

He is bringing that work and those connections – along with the Social Innovation STL staff of three full-time employees – with him to UMSL.

“We are very excited to have Paul and his team join our vibrant UMSL community as we continue to advance our mission of serving St. Louis and the region,” Sobolik said. “UMSL has always been engaged in our community. We now advance that model to provide collaborative, cohesive support that brings our community partners together to help solve larger-scale challenges.”

It has long been important for UMSL, as an urban, metropolitan university serving the St. Louis region to provide important public policy analyses, components and research.

Evensen, who has a PhD from the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas, believes the work of Social Innovation STL was already aligned with the historical intent of the Public Policy Research Center. Bringing it to UMSL should only increase its impact.

“It’s a legitimate mission-aligned home that gives our investors confidence that some permanent infrastructure can be invested in,” Evensen said. “It is a home with assets we could never or should never recreate. It has some unique capabilities, like communications and marketing and the ability to hold and manage large gifts or manage grants, and it will demand a level of rigor in our work. That environment is invaluable.”

Evensen is excited to strengthen existing connections his team has to units such as the Community Builders Network and the ED Collabitat, already part of the UMSL community. He also envisions creating and expanding student opportunities and advancing research, particularly in the areas of political science, public policy, social work and education.

The Public Policy Research Center will be structured similarly to the Missouri Institute of Mental Health and will be self-sustaining, though the university is providing some one-time bridge funding to aid Evensen and his team in their transition.


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