Castro, Davis named Brooks School Distinguished Policy Fellows

Julián Castro, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and former Congressman Tom Davis (R-Virginia) will serve as the inaugural John W. Nixon ’53 Distinguished Policy Fellows at the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.

Davis, a Republican and Castro, a Democrat, will teach, share their expertise and exchange ideas with Cornell students, staff, and faculty beginning in the fall 2023 semester.

Julián Castro

Tom Davis

“We are thrilled that Representative Davis and Secretary Castro will be our first Nixon Policy Fellows,” said Brooks School Dean Colleen Barry. “They will contribute varied viewpoints to campus conversations about pressing policy issues we face as in the U.S. and globally. Their perspectives will enrich our new Brooks School Learning and Leading Through Difference Initiative.”

The Brooks School of Public Policy’s Learning and Leading Through Difference Initiative is aimed at advancing civil discourse, strengthening democracy and developing students’ capacity to be thoughtful, purpose-driven leaders.

This effort complements Cornell University President Martha E. Pollack’s announcement of a themed year of emphasis on free expression and academic freedom.

Castro served as mayor of his native San Antonio, Texas – the youngest mayor of a top 50 American city at the time. In 2012, he made headlines with his keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, during which he described the American Dream as a relay to be passed from generation to generation. He then went on to serve as housing secretary under President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017.

Castro ran for president in 2020. He currently serves as a political commentator for MSNBC, and serves on the boards of the Center for American Progress, the LBJ Foundation and the Marguerite Casey Foundation

“I eagerly look forward to joining the Cornell Brooks School in what is an absolutely essential effort to foster reasoned, evidence-based discussion about the issues confronting our world,” Castro said. “I am proudly progressive, but I know Tom Davis. We’ll find common ground, or we will respectfully disagree if we can’t.”

Davis is a partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm Holland & Knight. He focuses his practice on congressional and regulatory affairs, including investigations, land use and legislative strategy.

Davis served 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing a northern Virginia district. He led high-profile investigations as chairman the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, from 2003 to 2007. Davis was a chief author of more than 100 pieces of legislation that became law. He presided over 150 hearings and investigations culminating in reports about issues including Hurricane Katrina, steroid use in professional baseball and private contractors in Iraq.

“I’ve always believed that government works best when each side feels heard,” Davis said. “That was the approach I took in Congress and that will be my approach at Cornell and the Brooks School. When I disagree with Secretary Castro, who I respect greatly, we will listen to each other, rather than talking over each other. With what’s going on in Washington and the 2024 elections coming up, there’s plenty for us to talk about at Cornell and much we can learn from each other.”

In addition to his law practice, Davis offers print and broadcast political commentary.

Brooks School Nixon Policy Fellows will visit the Cornell campus in Ithaca multiple times over the course of the academic year to guest lecture, participate in symposia, host student office hours to talk about careers in public policy and contemporary policy issues, and connect with faculty on research aligned with their expertise.

Jim Hanchett is assistant dean of communications for the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.


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