New MPA Display Honors George Romney

When Romney Institute administration members asked MPA student Kip Smith for help redesigning the institute’s display case, they were expecting a simple update. What they got was a full lobby makeover—and they couldn’t be happier.

The new display offers a look into each aspect of the MPA program and George Romney’s life of public service. Its main wall features photos and objects donated by the Romney family to bring Romney’s legacy to life.

“The display gives an excellent introduction to the whole program,” says Heather Chewning, the institute’s department program coordinator. “Kip made things so much better than we could have even imagined.”

Smith put in hundreds of hours of research, planning, building, and scouring Pinterest for inspiration to create the institute’s new display. Smith, who will graduate this April, had help from dozens of other MPA students and professors to ensure that the project came together in time for the Romney family’s visit in November.

MItt and Scott Romney look at the new display during a campus visit.

Mitt and Scott Romney look at the new display during a campus visit.

Brothers Scott and Mitt Romney and other family members cut the ribbon for the new display, which Smith and a few university personnel presented to them.

“It was great to see Governor Romney and his brother, Scott, look at the exhibit and reminisce about their father,” Smith says. “I think we reached our objective of highlighting this great man.”

Smith designed the four walls to showcase Romney’s life and legacy. One wall gives Romney’s personal history, outlining his achievements as a family man, automobile executive, civil rights activist, and champion of volunteerism. Each section includes artifacts donated by the Romney family, including correspondence with political leaders and the bible presented to Romney when he was appointed to President Nixon’s cabinet.

“The inspiration behind the whole thing was seeing what an awesome guy George Romney was. He went from poverty to making a name for himself and making the nation better,” Smith says. “I think that’s inspiring for our program because we’re trying to instill those same values.”

Smith searched through documents and photos donated by the Romney family in order to learn about Romney and the work that he did. His research also informed the design for the east wall, which features different aspects of George’s career that coincide with emphases in the MPA program. It also highlights recent graduates from each emphasis. In the future, more students’ stories will be added to the wall to showcase their careers.

The remaining two walls contain a quote by Romney and a design of wood blocks that Smith says will someday be engraved with names of alumni.

Smith, who hopes to consult nonprofit organizations in the future, says the project was worth the sleepless nights and lugging tools around the Tanner Building.

“I think it turned out well, and I’m happy that so many hands were involved in the process,” he says.