History and Mission
Established in 1979 by the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education and the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, The Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center is a nonpartisan institution devoted to teaching and research related to the United States Congress and more broadly to strengthening representative democracy through engaged and informed citizens.
Supported by private, foundation, and public funds, the Center has grown into one of the largest and most comprehensive congressional studies centers in the country. In 1982, the Center archives contained 40 collections of congressional papers, and today the archives includes the papers of 58 former members of Congress (14 senators and 44 representatives) and 20 additional collections of former legislative and political aides, journalists, scholars, and organizations.
The Center promotes academic inquiry into the history, structure, and leadership of the Congress, the relationship between citizens and the Congress, and the processes of policymaking with other institutions in the American political system. Over the years, the Center has hosted national conferences for scholars. In addition, the Center is a founding member of the premier national collaboration preserving historical material on the Congress, the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress. From 1997 to 2014, the Center hosted the website and published a newsletter on behalf of the Legislative Studies Section of the American Political Science Association.
Since 1983, the Center has hosted the biennial Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture in Representative Government, which focuses on the health of representative institutions in the United States and emphasizes the importance of participation by private citizens in public affairs. The Rothbaum lectures have featured the nation’s most distinguished political scientists and statespersons.
A national leader in promoting civic engagement programming, the Carl Albert Center was an early participant in Harvard University’s National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement (2004) and a founding partner in The NEW Leadership Development Network (2002) sponsored by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. In addition, the Center has planned, convened and hosted leadership programs on behalf of the Southern Legislative Conference’s Center for Advancement of Leadership Skills (2008), the Stennis Center’s Southern Women in Public Service (2011), and the Kettering Foundation’s National Issues Forums (2011-2012).
The Center is concerned with the health of our modern representative democracy. Its mission embraces three principal functions – teaching, research, and public service.
First, the Center offers academic programs in congressional studies at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The Center’s doctoral program has trained more than 34 students who now play leadership roles in academia and politics. The Center engages undergraduates in scholarly research, civic engagement activities, and service-learning opportunities at the Oklahoma State Capitol and in the local community. The women’s leadership programs address the historic underrepresentation of women in politics, public service, and other leadership roles through educational programs for women across the state of Oklahoma.
Second, believing that professional research is the foundation upon which its academic programs rest, the Center promotes original research by faculty members and students into various aspects of politics and the Congress. Further, the Center’s congressional archive provides a national resource available to historians, political scientists, the media, and public interested in the health of our representative institutions.
Third, the Center actively strives to promote a wider understanding and appreciation of the Congress through its various public service programs. Traveling and online exhibits promote understanding of Oklahoma history and congressional policymaking. Twice each year, the Center publishes Extensions, a journal which focuses on issues related to the Congress. The Center also provides programs, archives talks, and lectures which offer the local community the opportunity to engage in discussion of public affairs. Outreach to K-12 teachers extends the impact of the Center to younger students.
Taken together, these diverse aspects of the Carl Albert Center constitute a unique resource for scholarship and research related to the United States Congress