Story by Elizabeth Robinson
Photo by Luke Nankivell
Ternus, a Drake Law School graduate, was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1993 and served the court for 17 years. In that time she was involved with Drake’s Law School and served on Drake’s Board of Trustees.
Now, as an employee of the university, Ternus will turn her attention completely to the Harkin Institute.
“It’s important for us as a society to focus on the process of governing and in particular, the development of public policy and the way to have a discourse about public policy,” Ternus said. “I think the establishment of this institute is extremely timely and important, that’s what engaged me in the institute and what attracted me to commit my time to serve as director.”
Ternus’s legislative experience, will bring a non-biased opinion to the table and she will work to ensure that all voices are heard on a variety of issues. Ternus noted she does not come with a personal agenda, which she believes will leave more room for listening to others’ thoughts and determining the best way to assist them in regard to research and understanding.
Drake politics professor Rachel Paine Caufield agrees that Ternus’s experience will benefit the institute and its mission.
“She’s somebody who understands all levels of policy making, and certainly we can talk about public policy and civic engagement, but the end goal is always to have good public policy processes and most often those are legislative processes,” she said. “Knowing the issues is important and knowing the processes is just as important.”
One of Ternus’s key focuses for the institute is ensuring that its goal of educating on public policy spans across the campus and is interdisciplinary in nature. The audience the institute is aimed toward, according to Ternus, is “wide open” and includes a variety of ages, majors and citizens, spanning from the Drake community to a national level.
“It’s a non-partisan institute, so we are committed to bringing all views to campus on important issues of public policy,” Ternus said. “I think through that process it will assist students in taking a larger view of issues.”
Caufield also emphasized the importance of public policy issues for all disciplines, whether it’s in regard to politics, business or pharmacy.
“The goal has always been, and will continue to be, finding ways to set priorities and investing in issues that are relevant across campus,” she said. “When we talk about health care policy, for example, we’re not just talking to students involved in politics or pharmacy, but we’re talking to all facets of that issue because health care affects everybody.”
Ternus added that the Harkin Institute and its mission to support research, collaboration and education regarding public policy is a perfect match with Drake’s mission statement and goal to make students responsible global citizens.
“We’re global citizens whether we’re prepared for it or not, but I think that the institute can help in that process.”
David Skidmore, professor of politics and international research at Drake, agreed that the Harkin Institute has the resources and materials to foster responsible, global citizenship.
“Drake prepares people not just for a job, but for a life, and a big part of our mission is preparing the next generation of people who will serve as leaders in communities and professions,” he said. “For that to take place, students have to understand the broader issues in the society beyond their own technical training. I think this will help them to do that.”
As Ternus embarks on this new phase of her professional life, she hopes that the Harkin Institute can become “not just a button on the surface, but actually woven into the academic environment and programming” on Drake’s campus.
“I’m really committed to learning,” Ternus said. “For me to learn about how things work here, who’s doing what and making sure the institute is a good fit. I have the highest respect for Drake University and I’m very honored and excited to be a part of this kind of institute.”