Ryan J. Owens

Thompson Center Director

Ryan J. Owens is the Director of the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership and is also a professor of political science. He earned his Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis and was a faculty member at Harvard University before joining UW-Madison in 2011. Owens earned his J.D. at the University of Wisconsin in 2001 and practiced law before attending graduate school. He is an affiliate faculty of UW-Madison’s Law School and the La Follette School of Public Affairs. Owens’s research focuses on American political institutions, with a particular focus on the courts. Owens is the coauthor of Supreme Court Opinions and Their AudiencesThe Solicitor General and the United States Supreme Court: Executive Influence and Judicial Decisions; and Supreme Court Justices, Their Motives, and Judicial Behavior (under contract). Owens has published articles in journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, the British Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, the Journal of Law and Courts, the Georgetown Law Review, and elsewhere.

Eric Tempelis

Eric Tempelis is the Assistant Director of the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership.  His career includes roles in local, state and federal government, most recently as a prosecutor.  Eric formerly served as a corporate government affairs director, president of a statewide association, and staff member in the Offices of Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum and U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.  Eric earned a Certificate in Integrated Liberal Studies, BA, MPA, and JD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  As a law student, he was selected as a general editor of the annual National Symposium of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.  He is a former member and rank leader in the Wisconsin Marching Band.


Michael Knaak

Administrative Assistant

Michael Thomas Knaak is the Administrative Assistant of the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership. Michael attended Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin and graduated with a Bachelor of the Arts degree in December, 2017.  His areas of study included political science, economics, international relations and security, graphic design, religion, and western heritage. Michael’s research has focused on a number of thorny domestic and international topics, and he has presented his work on the interplay between sanctions and nuclear proliferation at a national conference.

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Former Board Members