Campus News

UK's Martin School Partners With Henry Clay Center to Advance Public Policy Education, Bipartisan Engagement

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 9, 2020) — The University of Kentucky James W. Martin School of Public Policy and Administration and the Henry Clay Center have established a formal affiliation to aid in the advancement of public policy education and bipartisan engagement.

The announcement was made jointly by UK President Eli Capilouto and Henry Clay Center Board co-chairs Bill Giles and Robert Clay.

“As a public institution, UK is a place where all voices and opinions have a right to be heard, and this partnership extends our commitment to creating a respectful, safe space in which our words and actions align with our values,” said Capilouto. “By preparing our leaders of tomorrow to engage in dialogues across all perspectives, we are ensuring a productive and prosperous future for the Commonwealth and beyond.”

Founded in 2007 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, the Henry Clay Center is dedicated to the education of tomorrow’s leaders in the skills necessary for statesmanship, dialogue, negotiation and compromise.

As a result of the new alliance, UK will serve as the host campus for the center’s flagship college and high school student congresses, which will receive academic curriculum support from the Martin School. The Clay Center will now be physically based in the Martin School.

“The Martin School is delighted to partner with the Henry Clay Center as it is critical for the next generation of public servants and elected officials to learn the art of compromise,” shared Ron Zimmer, Martin School faculty member and director.

The Martin School is consistently ranked in the top 25 nationally among public policy programs and lands in the top five for its public finance, financial management and budgeting program.

“We are thrilled to join with the University of Kentucky and the Martin School as we begin our eleventh year,” echoed Giles and Clay in a statement on behalf of the Henry Clay Center Board. “Over 800 graduates of this program have benefited from the concept of civil dialogue and bipartisan solutions, many of whom are serving in public service roles today.”

“UK has been an excellent academic partner since 2016, and we’re excited to expand and formalize the expertise of the Martin School in our programming,” they added. “The partnership brings Henry Clay and the university full circle in a relationship that began in 1865 when what was to become UK started from a building that was located on Clay’s nearby estate, Ashland.”

The Henry Clay Center also welcomes Tom Shelton as the newly appointed executive director. Shelton previously held leadership positions across the Commonwealth and the nation at educational institutions.

After serving at the helm of a large national educational organization and as director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, as well as Superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools, Shelton believes that he has found a unique opportunity to apply his classroom and organizational experience to advance the center's mission.

"It is an honor to serve with the Henry Clay Center and its outstanding board in conjunction with our partners at the Martin School of the University of Kentucky to educate and develop future leaders through honesty, civility, and courage to engage in discourse about national issues in order to reach compromise without giving up values and beliefs,” Shelton said.

The Clay Center’s affiliation with the university coordinates with the Martin School welcoming its first-ever public policy undergraduate class during the Fall 2020 semester.

To service the new undergraduate program, the Martin School has 11 full-time faculty members with a range of expertise in public policy, budgeting, education, tax policy, social policies, housing, nonprofit and public management, and the role media and social media play in developing policy agendas.  

For more information about the Henry Clay Center go to

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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