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March 03, 2022

Rowan University forms think tank with former New Jersey Sen. Steve Sweeney

The public policy center will offer a graduate program and identify research-based solutions to the state's biggest issues

Steve Sweeney, one of New Jersey's most influential politicians over the last 20 years, has teamed up with Rowan University to establish an independent think tank.

The former Senate president and Rowan unveiled plans Wednesday to open the Steve Sweeney Center for Public Policy on the university's Glassboro, Gloucester County campus.

The center will offer a graduate degree program in public policy and undergraduate courses in state and local government. The academic programs will begin this fall.

The think tank also will serve as a research hub to examine solutions to New Jersey's biggest policy issues. The university seeks to bring in public policy experts to lead the center's research efforts.

"The new policy center will tackle the toughest of issues and make its evidence-based research available to the public both for transparency and to enable greater citizen participation in state and local government issues," Rowan President Ali Houshmand said. "We are pleased and honored that Senator Sweeney accepted our invitation to help guide the public policy center we envisioned. Having worked for decades with both Democratic and Republican administrations, he has built relationships across the aisle to develop policy and enact change to improve New Jersey."

Sweeney will serve as chairperson of the center's advisory board. His longtime policy director, Mark Magyar, has been selected as the center's founding director. The think tank will be housed within Rowan's College of Humanities & Social Sciences.

"New Jersey needs an independent bipartisan public policy center that brings together the best experts and rigorous researchers to develop pragmatic, short- and long-term solutions that improve our state's competitiveness, grow our economy, develop our workforce, enhance our quality of life and make the state more affordable for everyone who wants to study, work, live and retire here," Sweeney said. "We are going to do public policy in public. I am gratified that Rowan University shares this vision and honored that the policy center will bear my name."

Plans to establish a master's program in public policy at Rowan have been in the works since 2019, according to the university. The formation of the public policy center began to take shape last year. 

The new think tank will complement Rowan's Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship, which seeks to educate students, faculty and the public on politics and civic engagement through various programs and events. 

Sweeney's move into higher education comes after the longtime Democrat was shockingly defeated in the 2021 election by Republican candidate Ed Durr, a truck driver with no political experience.

The former state senator had represented New Jersey's Third Legislative District for 20 years. The district encompasses parts of Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem counties.

Sweeney, 62, was first elected Senate president in 2010 and served in that role for a record 12 years. He rose to become one of New Jersey's most powerful politicians in recent history.

Sweeney served on the Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders from 1997-2010. An iron worker by trade, Sweeney also serves as vice president of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers.

Despite his stunning defeat last fall, Sweeney's political career is far from over. He's considered a likely gubernatorial candidate in 2025.

Rowan's collaboration with Sweeney comes as the university continues to expand its academic offerings to students in South Jersey.

Rowan announced in January that it was partnering with Virtua Health to establish a new medical college. The university is set to open New Jersey's first school of veterinary medicine by 2025. It also plans to establish a dinosaur fossil museum at Edelman Fossil Park in 2023.

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