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Josh Dunn will become the first executive director of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Institute of American Civics at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, Chancellor Donde Plowman announced today.

“We are incredibly excited Dr. Dunn has agreed to lead the Institute of American Civics and build an organization that fulfills its bipartisan mandate,” Baker Center Executive Director Marianne Wanamaker said. “Through the Institute of American Civics at the new Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs, we’ll teach students to address public problems by embracing the competition of ideas and having faith in our democratic institutions.”

Dunn will begin his role at UT June 1. He most recently served as chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and led the Center for the Study of Government and the Individual there since 2015.

“I am honored and humbled by this opportunity to lead the Institute of American Civics at the University of Tennessee,” Dunn said. “The foundations of citizenship aren’t automatically transmitted from generation to generation — they can and should be taught. We will be focused on increasing statewide appreciation of the need for civic knowledge and skills, renewing our civic health in the process.”

Dunn, whose mother earned her master’s from UT in 1966, received his doctorate from the University of Virginia, and his research and teaching interests are in constitutional law and history, education policy, federalism, and freedom of speech and religion. He previously taught at the College of William and Mary and was a fellow in contemporary history, public policy and American politics at the Miller Center of Public Affairs in Charlottesville, Virginia.

He and his wife, Kelly, have four children. In their free time they enjoy watching their children play baseball and softball and are looking forward to exploring the mountains of East Tennessee.

The search committee was composed of the following members of the institute’s board of fellows:

• Danielle Allen, professor of government and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

• A.B. Culvahouse, former U.S. ambassador to Australia, chair of the board of fellows

• Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University

• Bill Haslam, former Tennessee governor

• Glenn Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, the University of Tennessee

• Marianne Wanamaker (ex officio), professor of economics and executive director of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy

About the Institute of American Civics

Created by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2022 with overwhelming bipartisan support, the Institute of American Civics provides a comprehensive civic education for university undergraduates and the state that includes America’s founding principles, the economic and political institutions that maintain American democracy, and the basics of civic engagement. The institute is housed within the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy (soon to become the Howard H. Baker Jr. School of Public Policy and Public Affairs) and is advised by a 13-member board of fellows. The institute builds on the university’s capabilities in politics, economics, philosophy, American history and American government.


Cindi King (865-974-0937,

David Smith (865) 292-7877,