Don Norris, UMBC’s resident expert on Maryland politics, is director of the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (MIPAR).
A Passion for Maryland Politics
In an election year that featured one of the most spirited gubernatorial races in state history, Don Norris, UMBC�s resident expert on Maryland politics, was in high demand by regional and national media.
As director of the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (MIPAR), Norris leads one of the region�s foremost centers for applied social science and public policy research. He also has become more well-known to Baltimore/Washington political observers by lending his expertise to The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, The Marc Steiner Show, Maryland Public Television and other media.
Norris has been a �political junkie� almost his entire life. �As a child and teenager I was fascinated by politics and government, which were regular items of discussion among my family,� Norris says. Norris studied both history and political science as an undergrad, and went on to receive both a master�s and Ph. D. in government from the University of Virginia. He began following Maryland politics after moving here in 1986 and started looking closer at state elections when he came to UMBC in 1989.
According to Norris, Maryland has a unique political landscape that makes it intriguing to study. �The governor has incredible power,� he says. �Plus both houses of the legislature have four year terms, and are elected at the same time as the governor. Maryland has also traditionally been a one-party, liberal state, although that may change in the wake of this year�s gubernatorial election.�
On November 7, Norris moderated a post-election panel discussion at UMBC analyzing the 2002 Maryland General Election. The panel members were all political writers for Maryland newspapers and included The Baltimore Sun�s Howard Libit, The Washington Post�s Lori Montgomery, and The Baltimore Times� Associate Publisher Anthony McCarthy.
Norris thinks it�s too early to gauge the effect of Republican Robert Ehrlich�s historic election as Maryland governor. �It all depends on whom he installs, what his agenda is, how well he and the legislature work together, and the economy, among other factors,” Norris says. �I’m betting it will be pretty different; a more conservative policy and a more open operating style.�
Now that the election has passed, Norris, who is also a professor in UMBC�s Policy Sciences Graduate Program, can focus his attention on leading MIPAR, which continues to bring together UMBC faculty from a variety of social science fields to analyze important national and regional issues. Current MIPAR projects are examining issues like grassroots digital government, electric deregulation, child poverty, land preservation, the economic impact of community colleges, and public school financing.
MIPAR receives over $5 million in external funding annually and has been supported by a variety of organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U. S. Social Security Administration, the A. S. Abell Foundation, the Morris Goldseker Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the American Library Association and various Maryland state government agencies, just to name a few.
One of Norris� favorite parts of his job takes place each spring. MIPAR conducts an annual, all-day seminar on Maryland state government for members of the U.S. Congressional Fellows program. The seminar connects the leaders of tomorrow with those of today, bringing 20 to 30 Fellows to the Maryland State House for presentations by state senators, delegates and secretaries of state.
�Giving the Fellows a chance to see how one model of state government operates is an important part of their education,� says Norris. �There’s nothing better for a political scientist than showing future leaders how the structure and processes of government and politics impact their daily lives.�