Professor Robert Shrum will bring his political experience and expertise to the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, where he hopes to promote communication between students and political professionals in his role as the center’s new director.
One of Shrum’s goals as director of Unruh is to build off of what already exists. That means creating more internships in Washington, D.C. and featuring more political discussions and conferences. Most importantly, he wants to focus on students first.
“I think Unruh is a valuable resource for students on this campus, and there’s a lot that’s been done that has been pretty powerful,” Shrum said.
Last year, the Unruh Institute hosted debate-watching events, election panels and distinguished speakers, and Shrum hopes to continue that trend into 2017. He has already organized weekly seminars and presentations on President-elect Donald Trump’s first 100 days and hopes to implement more post-election discussions. He said he would reinstate a fellows programs with the hopes of attracting political figures to teach a study group.
Shrum’s next task is to bring Unruh into the national spotlight. He is looking to take advantage of the national attention received by the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Presidential Election Daybreak Poll, one of the only polls predicting a Trump win.
“That attention will encourage students to become active in politics,” Shrum said “If we can give people ways to engage and give them a sense they can make a difference overall over time, let them interact with folks who had a life in politics or spent time in politics, then I think you can attract more people.”
In December, the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences announced that Shrum would replace Professor Dan Schnur as Shnur begins work on a new center.
Shrum started off his career as a speechwriter and rose to prominence after writing Sen. Ted Kennedy’s 1980 speech at the Democratic National Convention. He then became a political consultant, working for the 2000 Al Gore presidential campaign and the 2004 John Kerry presidential campaign.
“All my professional life I’ve been lucky because I’ve earned a living doing what I love,” Shrum said. “Now I have a second career that I love, which is teaching and reflecting on these issues.”
In his new position, Shrum will be analyzing future elections and the current political climate, which he said is completely changing because of evolving U.S. demographics.
“Can we figure out, not just in terms of how they vote, but the attitudes of millennials and work with folks in sociology, for example, to see how those attitudes are shaping what they think and how they decide?” Shrum said.
To understand the underlying political changes, Shrum said he needs to go one step further.
“The dominance of Republican representatives in the House and the Senate and state legislatures may disguise a deeper, long-term problem the Republicans have with the rising American electorate,” Shrum said.
Because Shrum has been in politics for so long, he will bring a different perspective to the politics of the future, a perspective that many college students may need in their careers.
He also commented on the recent election, citing that only 9 percent of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton ads mentioned jobs or the economy.
“If you lose the message war, you’re probably not going to win the election anyway,” Shrum said.
Shrum will advance and maintain the Unruh Institute, where he will emphasize the importance of understanding the factors that motivate people to vote.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Amber Miller, dean of the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, nominated Shrum for the position. She did not. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.