The Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance (IPG), led by Max Stephenson, Jr., Professor of Public and International Affairs, maintains an active program of empirical and theoretical research and learning linked to the Institute’s policy and governance-related domains of interest to achieve more fully democratic societies at all geographic scales. IPG engages in research, capacity building, technical outreach and community-based participatory inquiry with and on behalf of those we serve, principally disadvantaged and vulnerable populations.
The Institute’s current research and project emphases are currently concentrated in these policy areas:
• Public and Community Health Group
• Governance and Civil Society Policy Group
• Child and Family Social Welfare Group
• Public Policy Data group
Max Stephenson Jr. first began writing commentary on American politics and policy-making in July 2008, at the suggestion of two colleagues. He called what were then quarterly offerings, Tidings, and sought to use those essays to consider major policy and political trends and issues through the lens of the requisites of democratic governance.

He began another commentary series, which he dubbed Soundings, in July 2010. Its aims were roughly similar to those of Tidings.

Stephenson has differentiated the two columns in the years since Soundings’ inception. He now uses Institute projects as a central focus of Tidings and seeks to derive broader or deeper lessons from them. Soundings, meanwhile, considers a wide range of relevant subjects and topics, irrespective of whether they have been a specific focus of Institute work.

Soundings now appears bi-weekly on Mondays while Tidings appears in the Institute’s Newsletter on a quarterly basis, on or near the first University work day of January, April, July and October. To access the archive for both series please visit

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