News: Meg and Sam Flax Endow Public Policy Speaker Series to Further Understanding of Urgent Policy Issues
Posted October 31, 2019
By Paul DeMerritt and Rebecca Keane, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts Communications
Meg and Sam Flax, CE 1979, have made a $100,000 gift to the Georgia Tech Foundation in support of the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Expendable funds, along with income from the permanent endowment fund, will support the creation of the Meg and Sam Flax Speaker Series in Public Policy, which invites top scholars, policymakers, and practitioners to speak to students and faculty across campus on urgent issues. The inaugural lecture on ebola response took place October 10, 2019.
“We live in a complex world, where the challenges facing society must be addressed, not only by the scientific and technical methods for which Georgia Tech is known, but also by our government and by world leaders,” Sam Flax said. “Public policy shapes political thought and discourse, and understanding policy is a critical skill for everyone, including tomorrow’s engineers, who through their industry and creativity seek to make the world a better place.”
The goal of the Flax Speaker Series is not only to provide students with a better understanding of current issues, but to get diverse perspectives on the proper roles for government in solving crucial problems. Because they practice at the cutting edge of their fields, or on the front lines of government policy, the Flax Lecturers speak from facts, data, and experience, rather than philosophy or theory. The lecture topics will range from science & technology policy to energy and the environment, from pandemic threats to sustainable development, from artificial intelligence and cyber-security to monetary policy, and even to the topic of outer space.
“The Flax Speaker Series will bring students and faculty distinctive opportunities to learn from policymakers and public intellectuals,” said John Tone, interim dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts which houses the School. “We are grateful to Meg and Sam Flax for creating this platform for the exchange of ideas and collaborative learning, and we appreciate that they will offer the School both current and permanent funding.”
The inaugural Flax Lecture took place on October 10, 2019. Meg and Sam Flax brought greetings via video to open the series.
“By creating this lecture series, we hope to further the understanding of public policy in the Georgia Tech community, and we look forward to speakers on varied topics of importance in the public sphere,” Meg Flax said.
The lecture by John Saindon, deputy team leader for the Medical and Public Health DRC Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team, was on “The Art of the Ebola Response: Lessons Learned from the Field.”
Saindon’s remarks were based in his extensive experience in the critical policy fields of public health and international development, an exemplar of the kind of interdisciplinary education facilitated by the Flax Lecture Series.
“It was wonderful to see 175 attendees, the majority of whom were students, for this inaugural lecture,” said School of Public Policy Chair Kaye Husbands Fealing. “Following the lecture, we asked how many students wanted to go into this field and a couple of dozen students raised their hands. I think that speaks to the kind of impact the series can have.”
Lecture organizer, Associate Professor Mark Zachary Taylor, said, “This speaker series is unique! It has tremendous potential to alter our students’ career paths. Meg and Sam Flax challenged us to present diverse perspectives on the proper role of government in solving crucial problems, and to do so by inviting speakers to Georgia Tech who practice at the cutting edge of their fields or on the front lines of government policy. Why does public policy matter? And what can our students do about it? This series will help answer those questions!”
To learn more about the School of Public Policy and about future Flax Speakers, visit spp.gatech.edu.
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