The Rose Institute was established at CMC in 1973 with a mandate to study state and local government. Its founders believed that colleges and universities too often had failed to focus on American government below the national level — that is, in the state capitals, county boards of supervisors, city halls, and other local venues where most policy in this country is made. Moreover, they say that California had developed into a semi-nation state, with a large and growing population, economy, and policy agenda, all of which deserved focused academic attention. Accordingly, they created a research institute to pursue that end.
The new institute was distinctive in that it would reside within a liberal arts college. Most academic centers with the Rose Institute’s ambitions are located in “R1” research universities and tend to focus more on faculty and graduate student research and publication than on undergraduate formation. By contrast, liberal arts colleges like CMC exist primarily to educate undergraduates. Based on that commitment, the Rose Institute has sought to generate work products at the level of an R-1 university or academic think tank while always prioritizing the development of its undergraduate research assistants.
The Rose Institute’s founding purpose has been restated as follows: “[T]o enhance the education of students at CMC, to produce high-quality research, and to promote public understanding on issues of state and local government, with an emphasis on California.”
Throughout its history, the Institute has sought to sustain this mission even as it has faced changing circumstances. And, indeed, much has changed since 1973!
For starters, the Rose Institute was established to study a state that no longer exists. Over the past five decades, California’s population has doubled from 20 million to nearly 40 million and has greatly diversified. Many central elements of California’s economy have died off while others have emerged. And the state’s political system has shifted from two-party competition to one-party dominance. The California of 2023 is different in manifold ways from the state of that distant era.
Similarly, the Rose Institute’s parent institution has changed greatly during this half-century. In 1973, CMC was still Claremont Men’s College, an all-male institution founded to prepare young men for leadership in government, business, and the professions. In the decades that followed, the college became co-educational, changed its name, expanded its enrollment, and began admitting more students from across the country and around the world.
Meanwhile, the march of technology has transformed the way the Institute operates. In its early days, Rose Institute research assistants and staff drew redistricting maps by hand and produced reports on typewriters. Soon, the Institute’s pioneering use of computer technology revolutionized the practice of redistricting as well as demographic research and analysis. Today we do nearly all our work on computers using sophisticated programs and publish everything online.
Many organizations lose their sense of purpose as time passes and circumstances change. But I am happy to report the Rose Institute has been remarkably successful in sustaining its founding mission while adjusting to a new world.
The Rose Institute’s clarity of purpose has been matched by its public influence. For the past five decades, the Institute has pursued work that has practical application and importance, even if that means wading into areas of public controversy. Early on, the Institute became a national leader in the arcane but critically important field of redistricting. In the 1990s, it turned its attention to governance in Southern California, producing influential studies of demographic change in the region, resource policies, and local government budgets. More recently, the Institute has focused on California’s competitiveness by conducting polls comparing California to other states, documenting business migration out of the state, and researching how to improve local government’s ability to face California’s current challenges. Through these and other projects, the Rose Institute has made decades of positive contributions to public affairs.
KENNETH P. MILLER
Director, Rose Institute of State and Local Government