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OREM — Utah Valley University President Astrid Tuminez said the school's new public policy institute started as an idea and a dream near the beginning of her time at UVU, but former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert helped make it a reality that she expects will continue to grow.
"The vision is bigger than just an institute; bigger things will happen," Tuminez said. "We are all part of this amazing story that is bigger than we are, and this institute will be a very big part of who we are becoming and what we will become."
Utah political leaders gathered Thursday at UVU to celebrate the official opening of the Gary R. Herbert Institute for Public Policy, a facility with the goal of helping students learn about politics and civic involvement through internships, forums, research and other opportunities.
Gov. Spencer Cox praised his predecessor as an example of someone who shows courage in decisions and stands by his principles. He gave an example of Herbert choosing to welcome refugees when many states were choosing not to let them in, adding that's what Utah is about.
"This institution has three main goals," Cox said. "One is leadership; the second is gathering, collaborating, bringing people together; and the third is building trust in the institutions that are so important to all of us."
Building trust in institutions, he said, is more important now than ever before, and he is grateful for an institution to help with that goal.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee said Herbert could always find a solution to problems that needed to be worked through, and that naming the new institute after him is appropriate.
"If there was a thin filament of agreement of consensus, he could extract it, he could extrude it, and he could weave that together with other things to create a strong cable and he could make it happen," Lee said.
Institute of great expectations
Herbert said the institute's unveiling was an important occasion for him and his family, and for UVU. He said he attended elementary school near the campus and would catch lizards in the sand dunes where the university would be built.
As a realtor, Herbert would suggest the UVU campus for meetings because of the good food. Later, he interacted with the school as a teacher, county commissioner and governor, and now as part of the Herbert Institute. He said this is a way he is giving back to the community, and the possibilities within the institute are great.
"We have a responsibility to make sure that our young people are given good instruction, being taught good principles and values, so they can become the leaders of tomorrow that they're going to be," Herbert said.
We have a responsibility to make sure that our young people are given good instruction, being taught good principles and values, so they can become the leaders of tomorrow that they're going to be.
–Former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert
He said the Herbert Institute will provide opportunities to talk and teach about economics, Utah's history, how to be a good citizen, federalism and the U.S. Constitution. He said the state is a great training ground for leaders, and this institute will help build more leaders.
"You can be a good coach if you've got good players — and in Utah, we've got really good players," Herbert said. "And so, consequently, the coaches that we have here with us today are very successful because of the people that they're coaching."
Herbert said they have raised over $5 million for the institute, but there is still more work to do. He said this effort has been a "very improbable journey" and thanked everyone who helped make it possible.
At the unveiling, two additional large donations were announced.
Julie Ramos, a representative for the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation, announced a $500,000 grant for the Herbert Institute, saying foundation leaders understand that the values of hard work, integrity and service will be taught at the institute.
Nicole Cypers, vice president of governmental relations at America First Credit Union, said her organization is donating $500,000 for an endowment that will specifically help students who are doing internships in Washington through the Herbert Institute.
Justin Jones, executive director of the Herbert Institute, said although this is the official opening, the institute began hosting forums last year and has already reached over 4,000 students and community members. He said this institute is providing valuable opportunities for UVU students.
"UVU has a lot of great programs and things … we do for our students, but to have a high-impact internship in Washington, D.C., like those now being funded through America First Credit Union, changes the trajectory of their life in a magnificent way. And we're so thrilled," Jones said.
Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson said this investment in another generation of interns will make a difference in Utah, adding that interns have already had great experiences through the Herbert Institute at the Utah Legislature.
Wilson told Herbert, "You said once Utahns deserve well-thought-out policy and plans. And this institute, the work you're inspiring here, is going to be a part of the playbook for UVU in terms of its success not just for today, but for Utahns in the future."
Wilson said the public policy that comes from the work done at the Herbert Institute will be needed in Utah to bring together differing views and figure out how to build the state's future.
Mike Erickson, a UVU student studying criminal justice, said being involved with the Herbert Institute has allowed him to broaden his education with an internship at the Utah Legislature, an internship with Lee's office, and a current internship in which he's researching election law administration. These experiences have helped him to understand the issues that are impacting Utah and learn about discussing and finding solutions to problems.
"Now that the institute is established, it's going to expand … it's gonna get people, students. a lot of opportunities to be involved, not just in internships," Erickson said.
Future visit from Mike Pence
In a pre-recorded video, former Vice President Mike Pence congratulated Herbert on the creation of the institute and those gathered on its official opening and announced plans to visit the university on Sept. 20.
In a press release, UVU said hosting leaders like Pence exposes students to diverse thoughts and helps fill the purpose of the institute.
Herbert said he is dear friends with Pence and got to know him when they both served as governors, Pence being a former governor of Indiana. Herbert said he is grateful Pence accepted an invitation to visit UVU.
UVU's Gary R. Herbert Institute for Public Policy is now open. @theLHMcompany and @AFCU each made a $500K gift to help the institute develop future policy leaders, and former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the institute Sept. 20.https://t.co/KpI9fj15h5#UVU#Utpolpic.twitter.com/vHE00hxYmM— UVU (@UVU) August 18, 2022