In December, the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education approved the Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities – Guinn Center – a statewide, nonpartisan research and policy center, to be formally hosted through the University of Nevada, Reno, effective July 1, 2021.
The nonprofit organization seeks to advance evidence-based policy solutions through research, public engagement and strategic partnerships. As a policy lab, the Guinn Center works closely with practitioners to provide relevant analysis, develop and implement evidence-based programs, and test actionable solutions.
“Both the University and the Guinn Center will benefit from this formal affiliation,” Jeff Thompson, interim executive vice president and provost for the University, said. “We look forward to having our faculty and students build upon our previous collaborations and continue to provide expertise on a broad range of public-policy issues that are critical to the state and Guinn Center research.”
Recently, the Guinn Center successfully partnered with the University’s School of Community Health Sciences, now School of Public Health, on a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Rural Health and Safety Education grant.
“We believe the Guinn Center’s affiliation with the University will serve our respective entities and the Silver State,” Executive Director of the Guinn Center Nancy Brune said. “A strong system of higher education is critical to Nevada’s ability to compete in the global marketplace of ideas and assist in our economic recovery. New policy choices based on sound research, sensible and pragmatic thinking, and bold ideas can pave the way forward to a brighter future.”
The Guinn Center has published over 60 policy reports in areas of tax and fiscal policy, education, health, social policy, economic development, workforce development, good governance and energy. As a collaborative partner, the Guinn Center offers data collection, research and data analysis, policy development, program evaluation, research design, data visualization, grant writing, facilitation and strategic planning, and workshop development.
“Locating the Guinn Center at the University serves the University’s interests and long-term goals,” Brune said in an op-ed submitted to and published by The Nevada Independent on Dec. 7, 2020. “The Guinn Center’s broad portfolio of research aligns with the University’s strategic plans to sustain its Carnegie Tier 1 “R1” classification and uphold its commitment to ‘enhance the quality, value and range of the University’s research’ and ‘invest in disciplinary and interdisciplinary research areas that build upon existing strength and that are responsive to emerging needs and opportunities.’”
Brune also said the Guinn Center is financially self-sufficient and will continue to pursue external grants and philanthropic support to fund its operations.
The Guinn Center’s senior team members and their areas of research and expertise are summarized below.
Nancy Brune, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the Guinn Center. Prior to joining the Guinn Center, she was a Senior Policy Analyst at Sandia National Laboratories. Brune is the author of over 90 peer-reviewed journal articles, reports, essays, blogs and op-ed pieces on topics ranging from tax policy, education, good governance, economic development, workforce development, health, social policy, criminal justice, public sector reforms, energy security, homeland security and climate change. Well versed in both quantitative and qualitative methods, her work has appeared in the IMF Staff Papers, Social Science and Medicine, Energy Policy, Annual Review of Political Science, Foreign Policy Analysis, and Americas Quarterly. Brune received her Ph.D. from Yale University in political science and her Master of Public Policy and B.A. degrees from Harvard University. Brune has compiled two original, global databases on financial openness and privatization, which have been used by researchers at the International Monetary Fund, University of California at Berkeley, Harvard University, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. She has successfully written grants totaling more than $20 million and has secured and managed federal and private foundation research grants totaling almost $3 million.
Meredith A. Levine joined the Guinn Center as Director of Economic Policy in 2016. She serves as the institutional expert on federal, state and local fiscal, budgetary, and tax policies that affect Nevada. Levine’s issue portfolio also spans health care and social policy. Her work is anchored in empirical research, conducted using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Levine has authored/co-authored 30 publications for the Guinn Center, which, most recently, have analyzed property, sales and alcohol taxation; Nevada’s budget; health care insurance coverage; Medicaid funding; and workforce development, amongst others. Current projects include monitoring, evaluation and technical assistance for the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Rural Health and Safety Education grant (in partnership with the University of Nevada, Reno’s Nevada Public Health Training Center); an assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on Nevada’s behavioral health care system; program evaluations for several schools and school districts in Nevada; and a series of analyses pertaining to federal and State revenues and the Nevada budget. Prior to joining the Guinn Center, Levine worked for the U.S. House Appropriations Committee and the Congressional Research Service. She received her A.B. in Government from Cornell University, and holds each an M.A. and M.Phil. from Yale University, both in political science.
Kenneth Retzl, Ph.D. is the Director of Education Policy with the Guinn Center. During his tenure, Retzl has crafted many applied research reports, policy briefs and research notes. Most recently, he analyzed rural educational outcomes in Nevada, considered workforce development issues and investigated educational finance considerations. Previously, Retzl worked at the Clark County School District (CCSD), leaving as the Director of Research, Accountability, and Data Services. While at the District, Retzl worked alongside the Nevada Department of Education, serving on the Technical Advisory Committee to craft the current Nevada School Performance Framework. He also collaborated with executive leadership at the district to provide data and research on expenditure-to-performance metrics, survey design and development, pay for performance and an early warning system to identify middle school students who may drop out before they graduate from high school. Prior to joining CCSD, Retzl worked for two accounting firms as a Certified Public Accountant. Retzl published several peer-reviewed articles on topics of governance, transparency and partisan politics. He serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Retzl received his B.A. from Clarke University in Iowa and his Ph.D. in political science from UNLV.