Out of the struggle of the 1960s, a group of Rutgers students from the Newark campus began informal meetings amongst themselves to share insight and thoughts about public policy topics in urban areas of New Jersey. Though their interests were diverse, they remained intensely passionate about policies that would impact communities of color. As African-American student leaders, some of them had been involved in the Rutgers Newark - Conklin Hall Takeover (1969) and saw how their voice could shape policy at the University. After graduation, these emerging professionals took their zeal, knowledge, and desire for change into the public sector. At that time, many of these recent African-American graduates represented a very small minority of public policy professionals. To remain encouraged to carry out their work, they met regularly to debate, discuss, and analyze policy. It was from these discussions and the sharing of information that Vickie Donaldson (Rutgers Newark Alumna), Richard Roper (Rutgers Newark Alumnus), Jerome Harris (Rutgers New Brunswick Alumnus) and Sam Shepard (Swathmore Alumnus) formed New Jersey Public Policy Research Institute (NJPPRI) to be a resource to the community.
For over 32 years, NJPPRI has empowered the community with non-partisan, unbiased data and research to inform citizens on issues that affect their lives. NJPPRI has become a trusted source to community members and organizations seeking to gain better understanding of policy topics. Through “The State of Black New Jersey Annual Reports”, lectures, convenings, and issue papers, NJPPRI has sought to help the community to effectively exercise their franchise and hold public officials accountable for their service. According to their current Chairman and former Assistant Dean of the Rutgers Law School, Oliver Quinn, Esq, “this organization’s work is not to frame policy, but rather to give communities reliable data and analysis to inform the creation of their own position on policy.”
Over the years, NJPPRI has included many notable Rutgers African-American alumni and staff including Dr. Henry Coleman, Jeannie LaRue, Vivian Sanks King, Dr. Randal Pinkett, Dudley Benoit, and Dr. Jeffrey Robinson to name a few. During the Florio Administration, NJPPRI’s work had substantive impact on the State Budget as the organization used public information to inform fiscal policy in NJ. Today, NJPPRI remains committed to its mission. In June 2009, it held The State of Minority and Women Business in New Jersey: A Public Policy Forum in Newark, NJ. In the future, NJPPRI will host such discussions as Environment: A Civil Rights Issue; Education: Focus on Educating Young Black Males; and Exploring the Urban Development Agenda of the Obama Administration.