In 1927, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government opened its doors to "provide a forum to study international, national, state, and local affairs and to make recommendations for improved governance." Then called the Institute of Public Affairs, the Institute was a unique organization that combined research, technical assistance, training, and publications. It was established at the University of Georgia at a time when the university had only 1,500 students and the state population was a modest 2.8 million.
Over the next two decades, Georgia's population grew and so did the needs of its citizens. In 1938, the Institute of Public Affairs took on a larger role as the Institute for the Study of Georgia Problems. Its public-service activities ranged from holding forums on constitutional reform to publishing studies on county road administration, forms of government, and voter registration.
In 1943, the University of Georgia created the Bureau of Public Administration, coinciding with the extensive reform of state government by Gov. Ellis Arnall and employing the service of political science faculty to teach short courses to local government officials. This unit merged with the Institute for the Study of Georgia Problems in 1953 to become the Institute of Law and Government.
The first Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators was conducted by the Institute in 1958, and it remains one of the longest-running educational programs for legislators in the country.
In 1965, the organization was renamed the Institute of Government when it began reporting to the new Office of the Vice President for Services. The final name change occurred in 1983, when the Institute was renamed in honor of Georgian Carl Vinson, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 50 years. In 1998, the Vinson Institute expanded its mission to assist people around the globe through the International Center, which extends the training and assistance work of the Vinson Institute worldwide to help governments more effectively respond to their constituents' needs.
Today, as the university's enrollment tops 33,000 and the state population hovers around 9,000,000, the Vinson Institute continues to help improve the quality of life in Georgia by bringing the resources and expertise of the university to bear on the issues and challenges facing the state.