Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Arnold Vedlitz

November 2012

Dr. Arnold Vedlitz has been an integral part of the Bush School of Government and Public Service since the idea was first put forward in the early 1990s. As associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts (and also a professor in the Department of Political Science), Vedlitz was a key member of the team that prepared the University’s bid for the Bush Presidential Library and Museum. In addition to his teaching and administrative duties, Vedlitz also headed the College’s Center for Public Leadership Studies (CPLS). When the Bush School became a reality in 1996 - initially under the College of Liberal Arts - he was asked to move the Center to the School.

“In those early days, the School had no faculty per se, but ‘borrowed’ faculty from the Departments of Political Science, Economics and other disciplines,” Vedlitz said. He was one of the School’s first “official” faculty members, moving his academic tenure from political science to the Bush School. Soon after the first class graduated in 1997, the Bush School became an independent college; and in 2000, the CPLS evolved into the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy (ISTPP). Vedlitz was named executive associate dean under Dean Robert Gates, a position he held until 2004.

I realized that trying to juggle administration, scholarly research, and teaching was becoming burdensome; so I decided to ‘downsize’ a bit and focus on my teaching and research interests,” Vedlitz said. He now holds the Bob Bullock Chair in Government and Public Policy and directs ISTPP. He has also been a student advisor and a Capstone advisor, and has served on numerous PhD committees, as well as on a number of state and national committees and advisory boards, including the University Center for Transportation Mobility and the Center for Transportation Safety at the Texas Transportation Institute. He also serves as a member of the advisory boards of the Center for Atmospheric Chemistry and the Environment, the Center for International Business Studies, and the Texas A&M Energy Institute.

Vedlitz has a wide range of research interests, focusing currently on issues on ISTPP’s research agenda, such as climate change, energy, the environment, and emerging technologies. “I have always been interested in science. I can understand the issues and can connect them to public policy,” Vedlitz says, “and ISTPP is the perfect venue for that connection. ISTPP receives quite a bit of grant funding and is one of the largest and most successful policy research centers in terms of work and publications,” he added.

Some of Vedlitz’s recently completed projects include a $7.4 million project funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Homeland Security. The project, "ARI-LA: A Framework for Developing Novel Detection Systems Focused on Interdicting Shielded HEU,” was a joint venture with the Nuclear Security Science and Policy Institute at Texas A&M. Over the years, ISTPP has also received grants from the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others. The Institute has partnered with over 200 researchers at Texas A&M, throughout the nation, and across the world on dozens of projects, proposals, and publications.”

“What makes the Institute unique is that we are a bridge of understanding between science and technology and other participants in public policy,” Vedlitz said. “We conduct research that clarifies how science and technology are understood by decision makers and the public, and why they are or are not used in public policy. Our research shows how best to frame and communicate scientific ideas so that decision makers and the public are better informed and better equipped to make effective and efficient policy. There are few centers or people who can do this, and no one who does it as well as ISTPP does.”

As the principal investigator, co-principal investigator, or senior research scientist on projects totaling $15.9 million in external funding, Vedlitz’s research approach is interdisciplinary. “He is an entrepreneur in pulling research teams together and can quickly grasp material in a variety of fields,” said Meg Rogers, assistant director of ISTPP. “He has strong ties across the University and is a conduit for the Bush School in many ways. People want him to be involved in projects because they know what he brings to the table,” she added.

Vedlitz has been teaching and working at the University for forty years, coming to Texas A&M directly from graduate school. He earned his BA and MA degrees in government from Louisiana State University and his PhD in political science from the University of Houston. He notes that the University has grown in many ways since he first came here and says that A&M is a good place to create things and come up with ideas. “The University is always open to trying new things; if you want to try something, they will allow it and see what happens,” he says.

In his scarce spare time, Vedlitz is a motorcycle rider and has played the keyboard in several local bands.