Robert Shrum to take helm of Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC Dornsife
Robert Shrum is an expert in presidential elections and political advertising and policy. He served as a senior adviser for the presidential campaigns of Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. Photo by Matt Meindl.

Robert Shrum to take helm of Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC Dornsife

The political science professor will use his extensive experience in United States politics to expand students’ opportunities for “real-world experiences that intersect with what they are learning in the classroom.”
ByMira Zimet

Robert Shrum, Carmen H. and Louis Warschaw Chair in Practical Politics and professor of the practice of political science at USC Dornsife, has been appointed director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.

USC Dornsife Dean Amber D. Miller named Shrum to lead the institute, effective Jan. 9, 2017.

Shrum succeeds Dan Schnur, assistant professor of the practice of political science. As director of the Unruh Institute since 2008, Schnur developed internship and professional opportunities for hundreds of students and numerous panel events for undergraduates to interact with politicians and political officials throughout Los Angeles and the nation. He continues to teach classes at USC and will be working with the USC Dornsife dean’s office this spring on the development of ideas for an innovative new center.

“We are grateful to Dan for his years of outstanding service and thank him for his work in advancing the institute’s programs,” Miller said.

The institute was originally founded in 1978 as the USC Institute of Politics and Government. Friends of Jesse M. Unruh renamed it after the popular California legislator in 1987. The former politician’s leadership and lifelong commitment to policy and people laid the foundation for political internships, conferences and panel discussions.

Shrum will reinforce the institute’s student-centered approach and create opportunities to strengthen student involvement in its programs and initiatives. “I’m hopeful that my appointment can enrich and build on what’s been done already in terms of student enrollment and student involvement,” said Shrum, “and that students will get more and more opportunities to interact with political figures, to think critically about their own assumptions in terms of how politics operate, and within a year or so, have the academy in the public square really working.”

Shrum, a USC Dornsife faculty member in the political science department since 2014, is a veteran political consultant. In the past four decades, he has navigated 30 winning U.S. Senate campaigns and eight winning gubernatorial campaigns.

“I earned a living in politics doing what I loved,” said Shrum, “Now I’m lucky again to continue doing something I love, interacting with students and mentoring them. I’m looking forward to placing them not only in Los Angeles and Sacramento, but in Washington, D.C., as well. That’s something that I think the Unruh Institute can do very effectively.

“The value here is the chance to give students real-world experiences that intersect with what they are learning in the classroom,” he added.

USC Dornsife is home to two outstanding political polls with which the Unruh Institute has been associated. Former institute director Dan Schnur was instrumental in establishing and overseeing the well-respected USC Dornsife/L.A. Times Poll with a proven record of accuracy in capturing California voter attitudes on a wide range of political, policy, social and cultural issues. The more recent USC Dornsife/L.A. Times Presidential Election Daybreak Poll created by Arie Kapteyn, director of the Center for Economic and Social Research at USC Dornsife, was designed to survey opinions in national politics and famously predicted Donald Trump’s victory in this past November’s presidential election. Under Shrum’s leadership at the Unruh Institute, these two complementary polls will continue to give USC Dornsife first-rank resources to gauge trends and driving forces shaping outcomes in both state and national elections.

Miller believes that Shrum in his new role will further solidify USC Dornsife’s push to extend the reach of faculty and student research so that it plays an even more direct role in understanding the world beyond the university.

“It’s imperative for scholars to interact with public officials about the great issues,” Miller said. “Through the Unruh Institute, and with Bob’s exceptional academic and political expertise and guidance, we can give the students opportunities to do that in meaningful and effective ways that make a real-world impact.”