Press Releases

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November 15, 2018 : Thompson Center on Public Leadership Announces Free Leadership Conference

Thompson Center on Public Leadership Announces Free Leadership Conference
MADISON — In celebration of its one year anniversary, the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership will host a free conference on November 30 at the Pyle Center on the UW-Madison campus.  The conference will feature policymakers and empirical researchers who study effective leadership.
“We’re excited to put ‘the Wisconsin Idea’ into practice by hosting an event which honors Governor Thompson’s effective approach to problem solving.” noted Thompson Center Director, Ryan Owens. “Leaders across the political spectrum will need to work together, and we will discuss how they can do so.”
The event will focus on two themes. The first will examine what skills tend to produce more effective public leadership.  The second will focus on how political leaders can use their powers to lift everyone up, or abuse them by pitting people against each other.
The event is free and open to the public. It will run from 10 am–2 pm, and includes free lunch.  Attendees are asked to register in advance by going to the “events” page on the Thompson Center website.  For more details on upcoming events, research, and the Center, please visit the Thompson Center website at

October 31, 2018 : Awards for Faculty Research and Statewide Speakers

Thompson Center on Public Leadership Announces Awards for Faculty Research and Statewide Speakers

MADISON— Embracing “the Wisconsin Idea,” the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership has voted to award nearly $500,000 to UW System faculty and researchers on three general topics: 1) prison to work initiatives, 2) the future of transportation in Wisconsin, and 3) bipartisan leadership practice.

“We were very pleased with the response to our request for proposals,” noted Thompson Center Director, Ryan Owens. “UW System faculty are among the best and brightest in their fields, and their grant proposals reflect that. Together, we will help policymakers as they seek to move Wisconsin forward.”

The Thompson Center also awarded nearly $100,000 in speaker grants in its first round of applications for “Thompson Talks.” These talks are intended to bring in major figures from across the country to UW System campuses. The first round of Thompson Talks will be held this academic year on topics ranging from renewing civic life in America to the economic rationale for clean energy. Speakers will deliver their talks at UW-Green Bay, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Superior. The Center will soon invite additional speakers at other universities as well.

UW System campuses interested in submitting an application for second round speaker awards may do so by the next application deadline of March 1. The Center plans to call for another round of faculty grant proposals in May.

The Center will hold free (and open to the public) conferences on Leadership (Madison – November 30); Second Chances and Prisoner Re-entry (Madison – March 7); and the Future of Transportation (Milwaukee – April 26).

For more details on upcoming events and proposal deadlines, please visit the Thompson Center website at


July 23, 2018 : Decision to Fund Statewide Speakers and Faculty Research

Thompson Center on Public Leadership to Fund

Statewide Speakers and Faculty Research


MADISON—In its efforts to embody “the Wisconsin Idea,” the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadershipwill fund speaker presentations and faculty grants on UW campuses across the state in the upcoming academic year.  The object of both is to advance effective public leadership and address pressing challenges in Wisconsin.


These “Thompson Talks” will be publicized to the UW campus and the broader community, will bring timely political and policy issues to the attention of larger audiences, and are expected to generate lively public debates.  Student organizations, faculty, or departments of any UW-system school outside of UW-Madison (where the Center is based and holding other planned events throughout the school year) may apply for speaker grants.


The Thompson Center also pursues its leadership objectives through funding faculty research. This year the Center will focus on projects that address prison to work initiatives and the future of transportation in Wisconsin.


Spurred by Governor Thompson’s recently proposed “Second Chance Initiative,” the Center seeks proposals from UW System scholars to investigate how to reduce recidivism and long-term prison costs while increasing employment among former low-level offenders and non-violent prisoners.  The Thompson Center is interested in funding research on programs designed to get prisoners on track with skills and jobs that help them hit the ground running when they re-enter society.


The Center is also interested in faculty grant proposals which investigate the future of transportation in Wisconsin.  In the effort toanticipate changes forthcoming in transportation, the Thompson Center seeks to fund research on a wide array of transportation and transportation-related issues.


For more details on deadlines, applicant eligibility, and requirements please go to the Thompson Centerwebsite at



June 25, 2018 : Decision on Research Themes and Director Confirmation

Tommy Thompson Center on Public Leadership Selects Research Themes and Confirms Director

MADISON—Today, the Public Leadership Board for the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership took action on a number of important items that will set the stage for the Center’s success.

The Center identified two major themes on which it will focus during the 2018-2019 academic year. The first theme targets prison-to-work policies in Wisconsin. The Center will investigate how Wisconsin can reform prison re-entry policies in a way that reduces recidivism and long-term prison costs while increasing employment stability. Along these lines, the Center will investigate Governor Thompson’s proposed “Second Chance Initiative.” That Initiative aims to deliver certified job and entrepreneurial tools, along with necessary life skills training, for low-level offenders.

The Center’s second theme will examine Wisconsin’s transportation future. The Center will identify changes in Wisconsin’s transportation system in the near and long term, and seek to devise policy solutions that sets the state on a path of long-term transportation success.

The Center will call for UW System Faculty grant proposals on these—and related—topics soon. It will also hold conferences on the topics this coming academic year.

Additionally, the Board selected Professor Ryan Owens as the first Director of the Thompson Center. Owens earned his Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008, his law degree from UW-Madison in 2001, and his Bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison in 1998. The two-time Badger expressed excitement at his selection: “I’m pleased to lead the Thompson Center and look forward to working with the Board and the faculty to help solve some of Wisconsin’s most pressing leadership and policy challenges. We aim to follow Tommy’s legacy of big tent problem solving.”