Two Humphrey School Centers Join Forces to Advance Infrastructure Research

May 26, 2021
Aerial view of freeway infrastructure
The Humphrey School's Institute for Urban and Regional Infrastructure Finance will have two research branches: fiscal research and state and local policy. Photo: Jared Murray, Unsplash

Two Humphrey School centers are combining efforts to advance research and engagement on strategic issues of infrastructure investment and policy across urban and rural areas. 

The State and Local Policy Program (SLPP) is merging with the Institute for Urban and Regional Infrastructure Finance (IURIF), and will operate under the direction of researcher Adeel Lari. Lari steps into a role previously held by Professor Jerry Zhao, who will focus his efforts toward the academic side, promoting the impact and visibility of IURIF both nationally and internationally. 

“By uniting our efforts, IURIF will expand the scope of our work beyond financial issues of physical infrastructure, to include a broader set of state and local infrastructure and basic services,” Zhao said. “This includes physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, and digital infrastructure, as well as the interaction and integration of them.”

"It is my pleasure to assume the responsibilities of the director of IURIF so that Professor Jerry Zhao can focus on and pursue his academic passion,” Lari added. “I have worked with IURIF and SLPP staff for a long time, so I am fully confident they will continue to do the work for which they are known and excel. As Jerry said, joining IURIF and SLPP allows us to bring financial and policy elements under one umbrella, and I believe we will be able do all that work with an equity lens which has been my lifelong passion."

As part of the merger, IURIF will now have two research branches: fiscal research and state and local policy. Camila Fonseca-Sarmiento will lead fiscal research efforts, and Frank Douma, who served as the director of SLPP, will lead the state and local policy research efforts.

“After several years of working closely with Jerry and his IURIF staff, I look forward to even closer collaborations, combining our complementary strengths,” Douma said. “SLPP's historic strengths in bringing people together to discuss and implement best practices will be further enhanced with the additional analytical capabilities of IURIF.”

As the two centers merge, Senior Fellow Lee Munnich, who founded SLPP in 1991, took a moment to reflect on the legacy and impact of the center.

“The State and Local Policy Program was started 30 years ago under Dean G. Edward Schuh with a threefold mission: 1) Convening, to increase discussion and awareness of state and local policy issues; 2) Contributing, to produce and integrate new information, ideas and approaches;  and 3) Changing, to enhance and apply public policy and address community needs,” Munnich said. “SLPP has lived up to that mission, and along the way hired and trained more than 200 Humphrey School graduate students and helped launch their careers in public policy and planning.”

Learn more about the IURIF.