An Interview With Studer Institute Director Brian Hooper

Mar 3, 2014

Brian Hooper

Last Friday local entrepreneurs Quint and Rishy Studer announced a new initiative: The Studer Institute. Brian Hooper, the Institute’s director sat down and spoke with WUWF’s Lindsay Myers about the purpose and direction of the Institute.

Hooper described the desire behind the Institute by saying, "We hope to educate the community in a compelling and interesting way, whatever it is that we find. We want to look at our community with a sober eye, we want to identify the key issues facing it and we want to try to suggest solutions."

The nonprofit Studer institute is going to sponsor research into the development of strategies to help cities evaluate and address the health of their economy, government and quality of life. According to Quint Studer they are working to identify benchmarks, create assessment tools, and highlight best practices from across the nation to help cities address the challenges they face.

Hooper again, "I think a lot of people recognize that Pensacola as a community is certainly on the rise I really do think Pensacola is on the cusp of very great things. At the same time we do face many challenges as a community and I think the Studers saw the need to fill in some of those gaps."

The purpose of the institute is to fill those gaps: with data that is presented in an understandable fashion to help everyone in the community chart the way forward. The group will function like a think-tank and promote ideas based on research to improve specific metrics associated with a community’s well being and quality of life.

 “We’ve never really had the opportunity to find new solutions, so the institute is going to help our business leaders, our elected official and our citizens by providing independent objective research in to these metrics and possible solutions." Hooper explained, "We’re going to engage in both short term and long term research projects. WE are currently collaborating with the Haas Center at UWF and we want to try to identify the key metrics for measuring the health and success for a community.”

Besides collaborating with the Haas Center, including economist Dr. Rick Harper, the Studer institute is bringing a group of folks together who may be familiar to many Pensacolians. The president and CEO of the institute is Randy Hammer, former publisher of the Pensacola News Journal and, most recently, of the Asheville Citizen-Times in North Carolina. Locals may also be familiar with journalists Reggie Dogan and Mollye Barrows. Dogan was a writer and editor for the PNJ before spending the past few years as an educator at Escambia Charter School and Dixon School of the Arts. Meanwhile, Barrows announced last week that she would be leaving her anchor role on WEAR Channel 3 to join the institute.

Hooper wants research to focus on education first.“I think our first issue is going to be focused on the link between education and quality of life. You know, how do we improve the economic opportunity in our community. I think that’s directly related to our education system, so that’s where I want to focus first."

The initial communiqué from the institute suggested that the Pensacola metro and west side regions would be highlighted  to develop an index of social and economic metrics to help move those areas forward. The key? Tapping one of Pensacola’s greatest resources: our human capital.

"We have plenty of talent, plenty of good people, plenty of political forces and momentum in the community but we don’t always have a clear path, tested solutions, and data-driven research to inform our decisions."

The Studer Institute hopes to help chart a path with research and innovation.