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Olene S. Walker, the first female governor of Utah, participated in a panel discussion as part of the kickoff event for the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service on Wednesday morning. The new institute will serve as a resource for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, as well as encourage students to participate in government performance and public service.
Accompanied by former governors Michael Leavitt and Norman Bangerter and current governor Gary Herbert, a tribute was paid to Walker for her contributions to Weber State University. The tribute and remarks were followed by a panel discussion. Doug Wright, host of The Doug Wright Show on KSL radio, was the moderator of the discussion and directed student questions to the governors.
Students asked questions, and each governor had a chance to respond. Leavitt joined in via Skype, and each governor spoke about how their past administration would address today’s problems and issues.
The panel discussion was the first event of many planned by the advisory council, but, according to Walker, it is still in the process of hiring a permanent director. Starting next spring semester, the Walker Institute will hold brown-bag discussions, forums, workshops, seminars and panel discussions. These will follow a pattern similar to Wednesday’s governor discussion.
Herbert, Utah’s 17th and current governor, participated in the panel discussion and also spoke on Walker’s achievements at WSU.
“I am happy to support Weber State University and Gov. Walker and pay tribute to her great work as governor and her involvement in the legislature,” said Herbert about the Walker Institute. “She’s been a great inspiration to many; she’s done a lot of great things, so this is a fitting tribute and kind of an extension of her public service here at Weber State University.”
Although Walker lives in St. George due to her health, she said she will still have a visible presence at WSU.
“I am going to be involved in suggesting people to speak, in getting interesting panel members and speakers,” said Walker on her participation with the institute that has her name. “We’ll be meeting as a board, and I will stay involved in that at least four times a year.”
The Walker Institute will offer an internship program that will give students experience outside of the university and provide an insight into the world of politics and political service.
“I will be involved in expanding the internship program to a greater number of students who will have the opportunity to be involved in the internships,” Walker said. “Mainly, we’re looking at placing them in positions outside of the university that will contribute to their education and their professional development.”
With the opening of the Walker Institute, Andrew Gardiner, president of the WSU Student Association, said he believes more students will become involved with politics and public service.
“Our nation will face some difficulties if the young people don’t step up right now,” said Gardiner, addressing WSU students. “The fact of the matter is we don’t have as many people as we should stepping up and doing something about the issues and problems that they see.”
Gardiner said he believes that because of the Walker Institute, future and present Wildcats will become political leaders and public service representatives.
“Weber State really is the pinnacle of decision-making and networking and the direction that each student chooses to go,” he said. “This area of northern Utah needs something like this to catapult students into the political world. It really goes back to people who have given to the program and made it possible.”