Strata Policy Founders (left to right)Ryan Yonk, Randy Simmons, Chris Fawson

Strata, as an organization, is fairly young. But the idea and structure of Strata has been crystallizing and consistently evolving for more than three decades.

The real story of Strata begins in the early 1980’s, when Dr. Randy Simmons was working in the Department of the Interior for the Reagan Administration. While working in Washington D.C., Simmons witnessed the emergence of numerous policy-based research organizations that sought to influence the political landscape through research and impartial policy analysis. Upon returning to Utah State University to teach in the Political Science Department, Simmons was inspired to create a similar type of organization in a more academic setting, using students to conduct and drive the research.

Simmons’ ideas led to the eventual creation of the Institute of Political Economy (IPE) in 1985. The early years of IPE brought together undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty from a diverse array of academic fields. The collaboration among these faculty and students brought forth a wide range of ideas and creative observation. Many of those original students have gone on to receive advanced degrees, publish scholarly articles, and have successful careers in both the public and private sector.

In the Summer of 2003, Simmons and a graduate student, Ryan Yonk, while working on various IPE projects, began building the framework for a new organization — Strata. Their idea was to create an environment where students would become part of an academic apprenticeship — where they would be trained as policy analysts and professional researchers — without the traditional academic restraints found in the classroom.

During that time another USU professor, Dr. Chris Fawson, one of the key collaborators with IPE, joined their efforts. Over the next several years, Simmons, Fawson, and Yonk, who had gone on to complete his PhD, worked together to create this student-focused research organization. They hired a handful of student researchers and began doing small research projects, while working out of borrowed office space at the university.

In May 2012, Strata, a public policy research organization, was officially incorporated in the State of Utah with the stated purpose: “To be a source of liberty-advancing educational programming, talent development, and policy-focused research.”

Strata currently employs a staff of more than 40 researchers, and is rapidly growing. Strata researchers have been instrumental in publishing hundreds of articles with an unrelenting principled voice for the cause of human liberty and prosperity.