Reilly named director of Morrison Institute

April 1, 2014

Thom Reilly is the new director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, the state’s leading public policy think tank. Reilly brings broad experience in both the public and private sectors.

Reilly is currently a professor and director of the School of Social Work at San Diego State University. He also served as county manager and CEO of Clark County – Nevada’s most populated county, with 1.8 million people – and has experience in the private sector. portrait of Thom Reilly, director of ASU's Morrison Institute for Public Policy Download Full Image

Reilly will officially start July 1 at Morrison Institute. He will also serve as a professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University.

“Thom brings experience, energy and imagination to this critical role,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the ASU College of Public Programs. “And he shares our commitment to taking on the vital issues that Arizona and the region will need to confront if we are to realize our state’s vast potential.”

Reilly takes over Morrison Institute leadership from Sue Clark-Johnson, former publisher of The Arizona Republic and former president of the Gannett Newspaper Division. Clark-Johnson will remain at ASU in a new assignment.

Koppell praised Clark-Johnson’s leadership, citing “her commitment to advancing sound public discourse addressing the challenges and opportunities for the state of Arizona.”

A research and community service unit of the ASU College of Public Programs, the nonpartisan Morrison Institute provides data, analysis and recommendations on key issues facing the state and southwestern United States. Morrison Institute was established in 1982.

Morrison Institute advisory board member Edmundo Hidalgo, president and CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa, points to Reilly’s diverse background and experience in the public sector.

“Morrison Institute has always been a resource through its studies, which allow us to accurately discuss issues of importance to our communities, such as education, demographic changes, aging communities and many others. Having someone who understands the importance of accurate information and its impact on public knowledge is extremely important,” said Hidalgo, who serves on the board's executive committee.

Reilly has been director of the SDSU School of Social Work since 2008. He previously served as the chief executive officer of Clark County, overseeing a $5.8 billion budget and 12,000 employees. He is also the founder of a management consulting firm and former vice president of social responsibility at Caesars Entertainment, Inc.

He is past chairman of the national Board of Directors for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

“I was immediately impressed that Thom brings to this position prior experience in academia government, private sector work and philanthropy,” said Richard Morrison, chairman of the advisory board for the institute that bears his family name. “His leadership should therefore relate well to all of those who have an interest in the Morrison Institute, whatever their vantage point.”

Reilly received his master’s and doctorate of public administration from the University of Southern California, his master's of social work from ASU and his bachelor of arts from Memphis State University.

“I feel my experience in both academe, as well as real world experiences in the public, private and nonprofit sectors make me uniquely qualified to lead the public policy research of the Morrison Institute,” Reilly said.

The ability to study a variety of issues important to Arizona, including the economy, the environment, transportation and quality of life issues played a role in Reilly’s decision to lead the Morrison Institute, which is home to Arizona Indicators, an online data resource center, and the Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center.

“The Morrison Institute for Public Policy is respected and well-known for its high quality, evidence-based and nonpartisan research, analysis and outreach. I am honored to be part of this impactful group of professionals,” he said.

Reilly seeks to expand Morrison Institute's independent research to focus on common challenges facing Arizona and the surrounding region: California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. The goal, he said, is to advance innovative, practical recommendations for public policy.

A clear focus: ASU alum plans for future water use

April 1, 2014

Now working to bring a renewable surface water supply from the Colorado River to Central Arizona, ASU alumnus Jessica Fox has a long-standing interest in sustainability.

As a high school student in in Canandaigua, N.Y., Jessica was fascinated by the intersection between environmental science and economics. Wanting to learn more, she enrolled in State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Several years after graduating with a bachelor’s in environmental science and policy, along with a minor in management science from Syracuse University, she decided to pursue a graduate education in water policy. portrait of ASU alum Jessica Fox Download Full Image

“Water is obviously much more plentiful in the Northeast, and it’s governed differently there, so I wanted to study how water is allocated and managed under scarce conditions in the Western U.S.,” Fox says.

Specifically, Fox became interested in the disconnect between the scientific and political realms. She wanted to research that phenomenon as it related to Western water management, and develop methodologies to deliver scientific information to water managers and policymakers to more accurately inform their decision-making.

After consulting with professors from her undergraduate program and reaching out to professors at Arizona State University, she decided the School of Sustainability was the best fit. Not only would the school’s master of science program build on her background in biophysical sciences and policy, but it would provide her with access to related fields like water policy, climate science, political science and law.

The opportunity to be part of a developing graduate program was an additional attraction, and Fox enrolled in the school’s second graduating class in 2008. During her first semester, she took a water law course that further solidified her interest in the laws and policies that manage Western water.

“It was a difficult course that I took with mainly second and third year law students, but it’s where I learned the most about the legal history and case law that govern how we share and manage our surface water resources in the West,” Fox says.

Fox now works as a water planning analyst for the Central Arizona Project (CAP), the largest source of renewable water in the State of Arizona.

“Because CAP serves customers in all sectors across the three most populous counties in the state, I knew they had a large role in state water policy as well, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Fox says.

Analyzing large datasets related to water shortage preparedness and developing a model that simulates water supply and demand scenarios are just a few intriguing aspects of her position. She also spends a good deal of time connecting with customers and stakeholders, ensuring they are included in discussions and decisions that may impact them.

Fox credits her position at the Central Arizona Project in part to her thesis research on reclaimed water generation and reuse in Maricopa County, which she conducted under the guidance of her adviser and committee chair, Rimjhim Aggarwal. Reflecting on the skills she had, then focusing on the skills she needed in order to get the job she ultimately wanted, also contributed to her success.

To students enrolling in the graduate school, Fox says, “A two-year master’s degree program goes by very quickly, so it’s necessary to have a clear focus on what you’re interested in and what you’d like to accomplish. If you can articulate that, the staff and professors at the School of Sustainability will support you to make it happen.”

Communications specialist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability