About the National Issues Forums Institute


Publication: 2014-01-05



Name:Owen Ambur


Name:National Issues Forums Institute


The National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization chartered in 1989 for the purpose of promoting the National Issues Forums (NIF).


  • National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) Directors

  • David MathewsChairman -- David Mathews is president of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation. He served as Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in the administration of President Gerald Ford. Between 1969 and 1980, he was president of The University of Alabama. At Kettering, he has steered the foundation's research toward studying the role of the public in our political system. Nonpartisan and nonpolitical, Kettering's research focuses on how to make democracy work as it should. Mathews has written widely on such subjects as southern history, public policy, and international problem solving. His most recent books are Reclaiming Public Education by Reclaiming Our Democracy, Why Public Schools? Whose Public Schools?, and Politics for People. He serves on the board of a variety of organizations, including the Gerald R. Ford Foundation and Public Agenda.

  • William MusePresident -- William Muse is president of the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI), a non-profit nonpartisan network that, in partnership with the Kettering Foundation, publishes issue guides on major problems facing the nation and works with groups to conduct deliberative forums around the country. NIFI is based in Dayton, Ohio. During his career in higher education, Muse served as chief executive officer of three major universities over a period of approximately twenty years. He was first selected as president of the University of Akron in 1984 and served in that post until 1992, seeing the university's enrollment expand to over 30,000 students. He also held many leadership posts in Akron, including chairman of the Akron Regional Development Board and director of National City Bank. In early 1992, Muse was chosen as president of Auburn University, the land-grant university of Alabama. While at Auburn, he served as president of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). He was also a director of Southtrust Bank, Alabama Power Company, and the American Cast Iron Pipe Company. After retiring from Auburn in 2001, Muse served as chancellor of East Carolina University, a university of 22,000 students in eastern North Carolina, before retiring on December 31, 2003. Muse is a native of Mississippi and attended elementary and secondary schools in both Mississippi and Louisiana. He received his undergraduate education at Northwestern State University in Louisiana, earning a BS degree in accounting. He then attended graduate school at the University of Arkansas, receiving an MBA and a PhD degree in business and administration. He began his teaching career on the faculty of the School of Industrial Management at Georgia Tech, later moving to Ohio University, where he served as chairman of the Department of Marketing and as director of the Division of Research. Over the next twelve years, Muse served as the dean of the Business School at three different universities, beginning in 1970 as the first dean of Business at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. From 1973-79, he was dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and from 1979-83, dean at Texas A&M University. At Texas A&M, the business school grew to become the fifth largest business school in the nation in terms of full-time undergraduate enrollment. Prior to going to Akron as president, Muse served for over a year as vice-chancellor for Academic Programs for the Texas A&M University System. He has held a number of national leadership posts, including international president of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity and is currently a member of the board of directors of the TKE Educational Foundation. He also serves on the board of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life in Alabama and as chair of the Advisory Council for the Fuller Center for Housing. Muse and his wife, Marlene, have three children and four grandchildren. Muse resides in Cincinnati, Ohio.

  • Estus SmithVice President -- Estus Smith retired from the Kettering Foundation after serving 18 years as program officer, director of operations, vice president and chief operating officer, and, most recently, vice president and chief operating officer emeritus and adviser to the president. He has dedicated over forty years to working in the areas of education and community service, formerly serving as vice president for Academic Affairs (1973-1984) and dean of the School of Liberal Studies (1968-formerly serving as vice president for Academic Affairs (1973-1984) and dean of the School of Liberal Studies formerly serving as vice president for Academic Affairs (1973-1984) and dean of the School of Liberal Studies (1968-1972) at Jackson State University, Jackson, MS. Smith currently serves on the boards of trustees for KnowledgeWorks Foundation and Alliance for Community Schools, Inc. He is the former chairman of the board of trustees for Central State University (2001-2006), and a former member of the board of directors for the Dayton Council on World Affairs, the executive board of the Miami Valley Leadership Academy, the advisory board for the Senior Resource Connection of the Visiting Nurses Association, and the steering committee for the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory's "National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools." Smith holds memberships in Beta Beta Beta, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Pi Phi, and several other national and local organizations. Smith is in the Jackson State University Sports Hall of Fame for both football and basketball. In 1981 he was cited by the Mississippi House for winning a distinguished service award from the National Governors Association and, in 1995, by the National Conference for Community and Justice for his outstanding service to the greater Dayton (OH) community. In 2002, he received the ten top African American males award from Parity 2000 in Dayton. Smith received BS, MM, and PhD degrees in music from Jackson State University, Indiana University, and the University of Iowa, respectively. He was married to the late Dorothy Triplett Smith, and has one son, Donald Gregory Smith.

  • Patty DineenSecretary/Treasurer -- Patty Dineen has been convening and moderating National Issues Forums (NIF) in Pennsylvania and other states since 1994. She has assisted with issue framing and large deliberative forum projects for the Kettering Foundation and others including the Philadelphia Inquirers Citizen Voices projects, the National Summit on School Design (an initiative of the American Architectural Foundation), the National Parent Teachers Association, Common Ground in Akron Ohio, and Global Connections-Pittsburgh forums. She has written issue books and materials for the American Bar Association and other clients. She is a freelance writer and the contributing editor for the National Issues Forums News (online) at Dineen earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Thiel College, a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh, and a master's of fine arts degree in nonfiction writing from Chatham University. She also works as a museum educator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and is a member of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW).

  • William WinterChairman Emeritus -- William F. Winter served as Governor of Mississippi from 1980 to 1984. He has been a long-time advocate for public education, racial reconciliation, and historic preservation. He has been chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board, the Southern Growth Policies Board, the Commission on the Future of the South, the National Civic League, the Kettering Foundation, the Foundation for the Mid South, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. He was also a member of President Clinton's National Advisory Board on Race. An attorney in the firm of Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis in Jackson, Mississippi, he is a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law. He is married to the former Elise Varner, and they have three daughters and five grandchildren.

  • Lionel J. BeaulieuLionel J. "Bo" Beaulieu is director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development and Assistant Vice President for Engagement at Purdue University, a position he began in April 2013. Prior to joining Purdue University, he served for nearly 16 years as director of the Southern Rural Development Center and professor of rural sociology in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Mississippi State University. During his tenure at the SRDC, Dr. Beaulieu introduced a number of innovative activities to the region and beyond. They include the: (1) launching of the National e-Commerce Extension Project that has facilitated the adoption of important e-commerce strategies by small businesses in rural America; (2) spearheading a national effort to strengthen the quality of web-based resources available to rural people via the eXtension rural entrepreneurship initiative; (3) conducting evaluation research of the most promising strategies for bringing about social and economic advancement in low-wealth counties in the Mississippi Delta Region; (4) coordinating a national effort to strengthen regional economic development strategies in rural counties via the Stronger Economies Together (SET) initiative in collaboration with USDA Rural Development, NIFA/USDA and the Regional Rural Development Centers; (5) creation of the Food Assistance Small Grants Program in partnership with the Economic Research Service - now called the RIDGE Center for Targeted Studies @ the SRDC; and (6) working with the Kettering Foundation, the Farm Foundation and Everyday Democracy, Beaulieu and SRDC staff in launching the Turning the Tide on Poverty initiative in 2010 designed to mobilize local individuals and groups to play vital roles in tackling the difficult issue of poverty. He is the author of numerous publications, including edited book volumes, book chapters and articles that address rural development, education and labor force issues in America. Dr. Beaulieu received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Sociology from Purdue University. He served on the faculty of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences/University of Florida for 20 years prior to his position at Mississippi State University and Purdue University. Beaulieu completed his term as president of the Rural Sociological Society (RSS) in August 2004 and is the immediate past editor of Rural Realities, a policy/information series sponsored by the RSS. He is currently Vice President for Programs of the Community Development Society and will become the professional organization's new president in July 2013.

  • Michael Delli CarpiniMichael X. Delli Carpini, Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania (1975) and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota (1980). Prior to joining the University of Pennsylvania faculty in July of 2003, Professor Delli Carpini was Director of the Public Policy program of the Pew Charitable Trusts (1999-2003), and member of the Political Science Department at Barnard College and graduate faculty of Columbia University (1987-2002), serving as chair of the Barnard department from 1995 to 1999. Delli Carpini began his academic career as an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at Rutgers University (1980-1987). His research explores the role of the citizen in American politics, with particular emphasis on the impact of the mass media on public opinion, political knowledge and political participation. He is author of Stability and Change in American Politics: The Coming of Age of the Generation of the 1960s (New York University Press, 1986), What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters (Yale University Press, 1996 and winner of the 2008 American Association of Public Opinion Researchers Book Award), A New Engagement? Political Participation, Civic Life and the Changing American Citizen (Oxford University Press, 2006), Talking Together: Public Deliberation and Political Participation in America (University of Chicago Press, 2009), and After Broadcast News: Media Regimes, Democracy, and the New Information Environment (Cambridge University Press, 2011), as well as numerous articles, essays and edited volumes on political communications, public opinion and political socialization. Dean Delli Carpini was awarded the 2008 Murray Edelman Distinguished Career Award from the Political Communication Division of the American Political Science Association.

  • Michael D'InnocenzoMichael D'Innocenzo has taught history at Hofstra University in New York for 52 years and is the Harry H. Wachtel Distinguished Teaching Professor for the Study of Nonviolent Social Change, a position he has held since 1997. The position is named after social activist educator Harry Wachtel, who was a personal friend of Dr. Martin Luther King. He became the national chairman of United Campuses to Prevent Nuclear War in 1985, serving three years in the organization that included 600 schools nationally. He met his wife, Andrea Libresco, that same year when they cofounded The Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. He has served as chairperson of the Nassau County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. He still serves on the board of directors of that chapter and The Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. D'Innocenzo helped launch the Hofstra Public Policy Institute in 1993, and in 2007, helped found Hofstra's Center for Civic Engagement. In 1998, the American Historical Association awarded him the Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award, recognizing outstanding teaching and advocacy for history teaching at colleges and universities. At Union College, D'Innocenzo earned a bachelor's degree in history and was awarded the prestigious Frank Bailey Prize. Two years after graduating, he completed a master's degree at Columbia University and soon after began teaching at Hofstra.

  • Jean JohnsonJean Johnson is a Senior Fellow and Special Adviser for Public Agenda. She has authored studies on education, families, religion, race relations, the federal budget, retirement, welfare, and health care. Most recently, she was the lead author for three Public Agenda/Kettering Foundation reports: "Don't Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public's Confidence in Schools, Business, Government, and More," "Will It Be on the Test? A Closer Look at How Leaders and Parents Think about Accountability in the Public Schools," and "No Easy Way Out: Citizens Talk about Tackling the Debt," She was the principal researcher and lead author for three studies of young adults' views on college, completed for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: "With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them: Myths and Realities About Why So Many Students Fail to Finish College," "Can I Get a Little Advice Here? How an Overstretched High School Guidance System Is Undermining Students' College Aspirations," and "One Degree of Separation: How Young Americans Who Don't Finish College See Their Chances for Success." Johnson has also authored a series of books drawing on her work at Public Agenda, most recently You Can't Do It Alone: A Communications and Engagement Manual for School Leaders Committed to Reform (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012). With Public Agenda senior fellow Scott Bittle, she is the co-author of a series designed to help typical citizens understand complex public policy issues. Published by HarperCollins, the series includes: Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis (2008); Who Turned Out the Lights? Your Guided Tour to the Energy Crisis (2010); and Where Did the Jobs Go? And What Can We Do to Get Them Back? (2012). Johnson has also written articles for USA Today, Education Leadership, Education Week, and The Kettering Review. She and Bittle are regular contributors to the blogs The Huffington Post and The Great Energy Challenge. Her media appearances include Bill Moyers' Journal, CNN, NPR's Fresh Air, The Dylan Ratigan Show, Today Show, and The O'Reilly Factor. Prior to joining Public Agenda in 1980, Johnson was Resource Director for Action for Children's Television in Boston. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College and holds master's degrees from Brown University and Simmons College.

  • Betty KnightonBetty Knighton is the director of the West Virginia Center for Civic Life, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes public dialogue on issues that affect the quality of life in West Virginia. A primary focus of her work has been building a network for civic engagement in the state through collaborative partnerships with educational, civic, faith-based, and governmental organizations. Through the Center, she works with West Virginia communities to develop balanced frameworks for local issues, to convene and moderate community discussions, and to develop processes to move from dialogue to action. Knighton is a graduate of Morris Harvey College and of Marshall University. She and her husband, Michael, a special education teacher, live in Charleston. They have been married 38 years and have three children.

  • George MehaffyGeorge Mehaffy serves as the Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) in Washington, D.C., representing 430 public colleges and universities and their 3.7 million students. His division is responsible for developing and managing programs for member institutions in areas such as leadership development, undergraduate education, technology, international education and teacher education. He directs a variety of projects, including international programs with a Chinese higher education association, a technology transformation project with EDUCAUSE, an articulation project with community colleges, and two national studies of student success. In 2003, he launched the American Democracy Project, a civic engagement initiative with 228 colleges and universities, a partnership with The New York Times. He has university teaching and administrative experience in New Mexico and California.

  • Wanda MinorWanda Madison Minor is a native of Livingston, Alabama, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, with BA, MA, EdS, and PhD degrees. She has more than 25 years working in public education at the K-12, post-secondary, and higher education levels, in the non-profit arena and in the public and private sectors. She is a former SREB Doctoral Scholar and Kettering Foundation Citizen Researcher. Since 1983, Minor has convened and facilitated public, deliberative forums on salient national issues such as health care reform, death and dying, Social Security, the national debt, America's Role in the World, race relations, the energy crises, immigration, and others. She has been a participant at the LBJ Presidential Library Conference in Austin, Texas, at the National Issues Forums' (NIF) Washington Weeks in Washington, D.C., and at several Public Policy Institutes in Miami, OH, for NIF network providers. In March 2009, she served as a Juried Witness on Health Care Reform at the National Archives, in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the National Issues Forums Institute and the Kettering Foundation of Dayton, OH. Since locating to New Jersey in late 2006, Minor has lead deliberative forums in aging-services communities and has conducted research to examine the habits of civic engagement among older adults. She serves on the advisory council of the Center for Human and Community Wellness at Monmouth University, located in West Long Branch, New Jersey and does independent consulting in the areas of training and development, educational and community-based participatory research, race relations, civic engagement, and strategic communications.

  • Carol Farquhar NugentCarol Farquhar Nugent, long-time executive director of Grantmakers In Aging (GIA), retired December 31, 2011 following a 12-year career with GIA. As the organization's first full-time Executive Director, she led a rapidly growing nonprofit membership organization for senior staff and trustees from all sizes and types of foundations involved directly or indirectly with aging. GIA is the only national professional organization of grantmakers active in the field of aging. Through educational activities, programs and publications, GIA serves its members' needs as a national resource center on aging. Networking and collaboration are the cornerstones of GIA's work in the philanthropic community. The mission of GIA is: "To Promote and Strengthen Grantmaking for an Aging Society." Prior to this appointment in 1999, Ms. Nugent held the position of Program Officer at the Kettering Foundation based in Dayton, Ohio. The Kettering Foundation is an operating foundation with research focused on learning how democracy can work better. Her responsibilities included expansion and support of the National Issues Forums program to promote deliberative democracy. Since retirement, she has continued to address the needs of local and national nonprofit organizations by serving on the boards of the National Issues Forums Institute, The Dade Fund, a donor advised fund of the Miami, FL Community Foundation, Hithergreen Center and the Centerville-Washington Foundation. As an active member of SCORE (Senior Corps of Retired Executives), she is working with other volunteers to design and implement a capacity building series of workshops for small nonprofit organizations. Recipient of the National Council on Aging's Arthur Fleming Award; Delegate to the White House Conference on Aging; Selected as the Dayton Daily News' Top Ten Women. Ms. Nugent received her Bachelor of Arts in Humanities at the McGregor School at Antioch University, Yellow Springs, Ohio.

  • Doug OplingerDoug Oplinger is managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, where he has worked since 1971. He has served in a variety of editing positions and as a reporter covering public policy, education and business, specializing in public engagement, enterprise and investigative projects. He was an editor on two of the staff Pulitzer Prizes, including the gold medal for examination of race issues in the community. He managed the newsroom's yearlong American Dream Series in 2008, which examined citizens' growing fears of economic decline. The project became a collaborative effort of local media and the University of Akron and won the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. He also was part of a three-person team recognized by the Nieman Foundation's Taylor Family Award for fairness in reporting on the national home-schooling movement, its separation from mainstream but its heavy influence in politics. During the 2000 Presidential Election Year, he produced the series "Electing Not to Vote," examining why citizens opted not to participate in elections. In 1997, he received the Society of Professional Journalist's local John S. Knight Award for exceptional service to the community. In his spare time, he works with children and youth in the community. Oplinger obtained his bachelor's degree at the University of Akron, where he studied history, politics and economics, and his master's from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He lives in Green, Ohio, with his wife, Diane. They have three grown children.

  • Kathleen PateKathleen Pate has worked with NIF since the 2008 program in which all 12 Presidential Libraries hosted forums during the Presidential election campaign. In preparation for the 2008 program, she hosted an introductory-moderator training session for several presidential libraries. For the Clinton Library's series of forums she hosted a moderator training workshop. During the two-year Presidential Libraries project just completed, she took a leadership role in preparation of the issue book on Kosovo. She worked with Malcolm Glover, an NPR reporter in Little Rock, and Kate Cawvey, a volunteer graduate student from the Clinton School of Public Service. Clinton Library was a leader among the five libraries in the project. Clinton was consistently ahead of the curve. Kathleen has embraced NIF and has used forums in her library's education program. Pate was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia. She has an undergraduate degree in sociology and a certificate in women's studies from the University of Georgia. She has completed the coursework at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for a master's degree in public history and hopes to finish her thesis this year. She began her career in museum education at the Historic Arkansas Museum in 1998 and accepted her current position as the Education Specialist at the Clinton Presidential Library in 2002. Kathleen lives in Pine Bluff with her husband Matthew and their two dogs, Trooper and Tilly.

  • Roberta StevensRoberta A. Stevens is Special Assistant to the Associate Librarian for Library Services, Library of Congress; and is the Immediate Past President of the American Library Association. Stevens has worked in libraries for 36 years as a school library/media specialist, Chairperson of Media Services for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Director of Technical Operations for the Fairfax County Public Library system, and, most recently, as the Outreach Projects and Partnerships Officer and the Project Manager of the National Book Festival at the Library of Congress. Ms. Stevens began her more than 25 years at the Library of Congress as the Customer Services Officer managing product development, marketing, customer support and accounting operations for its Cataloging Distribution Service. Since then she has held high-profile positions working with members of Congress and their staff, individuals at the highest levels of government and top donors to the Library. She managed the three-year Library of Congress Bicentennial Program, which included a commemorative stamp and coins, exhibitions, publications, symposia, concerts, a nationwide Local Legacies Project and the Gifts to the Nation program that resulted in $80 million raised for the Library's collections, projects and a scholarly center. Ms. Stevens has been on leave since August 2010 to serve as the 2010-2011 President of the American Library Association (ALA). Prior to her presidency, she managed the National Book Festival, which began in 2001 as a collaborative effort of the Library of Congress and then First Lady Laura Bush. The festival now includes President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as its honorary co-chairs. In addition to project management, Ms. Stevens has handled fundraising responsibilities for the Library of Congress. Before her election as ALA President, Ms. Stevens served two terms on the ALA's Council (its governing body) and a term as a member of ALA's Executive Board. Ms. Stevens was the first former Masters of Library and Information Studies graduate at the State University of New York at Buffalo to be invited as its commencement speaker. She was named the recipient of the 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo, where the MLS program is organizationally located, and received the 2009 Ainsworth Rand Spofford Presidential Award from the District of Columbia Library Association for contributions to the development or improvement of library and information services. Ms. Stevens has been given numerous special achievement and meritorious service awards during her career at the Library of Congress and recently received its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.

  • Joffre Conrad WhisentonJoffre Conrad Whisenton is currently serving as vice president for Joffre T. Whisenton & Associates in Atlanta, Georgia. Whisenton & Associates performs consultant services for companies, foundations, and colleges and universities throughout the United States. They have assisted in specific employee searches, economic impact studies, evaluation of departments on college campuses, and conducted specific research for foundations, nonprofits, and government agencies. Joffre T. Whisenton and Associates, the Kettering Foundation, and participating higher education professionals collaborate on the Public Scholars Research Workshop. The purpose of the workshop is to conduct original research addressing higher education's relationship to the fundamental problems of democracy over the course of two years. The workshop is designed to both introduce and invite experimentation with central concepts and practices of strong democracy—such as making choices together and doing public work in the context of teaching, research and service, i.e., the workshop intends to provide space for conducting novel research that contributes to fulfilling the established professional responsibilities. Our aim is that the workshop generates opportunities to revisit aspects of professional work participants are already doing to make it more productive and not simply to add-on to their already full agendas. Whisenton holds a BS in business management from Fisk University.

  • Kettering Foundation

  • NIFI NetworkAbout National Issues Forums (NIF) -- National Issues Forums (NIF) is a network of civic, educational, and other organizations, and individuals, whose common interest is to promote public deliberation in America. It has grown to include thousands of civic clubs, religious organizations, libraries, schools, and many other groups that meet to discuss critical public issues. Forum participants range from teenagers to retirees, prison inmates to community leaders, and literacy students to university students.

  • Civic Clubs

  • Religious Organizations

  • Libraries

  • Schools

  • Teenagers

  • Retirees

  • Prison Inmates

  • Community Leaders

  • Literacy Students

  • University Students

  • NIFI PartnersNIFI welcomes inquiries regarding potential partnerships with entities interested in furthering the work of NIFI.