Dan Schnur, a veteran of four presidential and three gubernatorial campaigns, has been named director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, housed in USC College.
Schnur served as the national director of communications for Sen. John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, and as the chief media spokesman for former California governor Pete Wilson. An assistant professor of the practice in USC College’s political science department and an adjunct faculty member at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, Schnur has taught courses in political communications and campaign strategy at USC for the past five years.
“A great liberal arts education in the 21st century must extend beyond the classroom,” College Dean Howard Gillman said. “At USC College, we are providing extracurricular opportunities for our students to become better citizens — and better people.
“Dan’s unique background and experience will contribute greatly to the important mission of the Unruh Institute. He is passionate about the importance of political involvement and also understands academic settings. He will be very effective at bridging the academic study of politics with the real world of politics — to the great benefit of the entire USC community.”
The mission of the Unruh Institute of Politics is to motivate students to become active in the world of politics and encourage public officials to participate in the daily life of USC.
As director, Schnur will oversee conferences, lectures, panel discussions and other campus events designed to raise awareness of campaign politics, government and public policy. He will also work with candidates, elected officials and other public service advocates to provide internship and other professional opportunities for USC students. He will advise existing student campus organizations on their political and campaign-related activities.
“This historic election season is an extraordinary opportunity for the students and faculty of USC to participate in a political dialogue and campaign debate that can shape our nation’s future,” Schnur said. “I’m eager to foster that discussion on campus, but also to help our students understand the rewards that come from active participation in public service.”
“Janelle did great work as a steward of the Unruh Institute,” Gillman said. “The momentum she built for the institute’s programs and activities constitute a wonderful start for Dan as he takes the reins.”
In addition to his campaign work, Schnur is the co-chairman of the Voices of Reform project, a bipartisan statewide organization devoted to making state government more responsive to the needs of California voters.
He has served as a visiting fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics at Harvard University, and has taught at the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Government Studies and at the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
Schnur also founded and directed the Center for Campaign Leadership, a nonpartisan effort to equip young people with the skills essential for professional involvement in political campaigns.
“This appointment is just the next step in Dan’s long association with the Unruh Institute,” said Ann Crigler, professor and chair of political science in USC College, who served as director at the institute for nine years.
“We met in 1995, even before I took on the role of director,” she said, “and envisioned it as becoming the premier place in the West for students to learn about the real world of politics, and for connecting politicians with academe. With Dan as director, I think we’ll see the institute continue toward bringing that vision to fruition.”
A graduate of the American University in Washington, D.C., Schnur is a regular contributor to the New York Times online opinion section, “Campaign Stops.” He has also written opinion pieces for several California newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee and the San Jose Mercury News. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News as an analyst and political commentator.
“We intend to make USC the center of political discussion and debate on the West Coast,” Schnur said. “Our students will have access to the best minds and most influential leaders of both major parties and a full range of ideologies.
“They represent the next generation of leadership for our state and our nation. My job is to help them prepare for that responsibility in any and every way possible.”