It would be easy to look at 2020 and only focus on all the challenges that arose this past year – many unexpected, and as we have all come to learn - unprecedented. But here at the Extension and Public Engagement Connection Center (EPECC), we are all about making connections for what lies ahead, for taking on the challenges and adapting what we do for who we serve, in order to have the best possible outcomes.
It’s how Extension has always reached out to its communities. In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act established a system of cooperative extension services that connected land-grant universities, such as our very own University of Illinois, with people in the community to inform them about recent developments in agriculture, economics, public policy, education, coastal issues, health and many other related issues. They did this by making a pathway between research and the practical application of that work. Today, not even a pandemic could prevent Extension from continuing this legacy.
The Illini Science Policy (ISP) program showcases how you can design a vision and use creative energies to push it to fruition, making adaptions along the way so that the results are stronger, and perhaps even better, than anticipated outcomes. In the first 6 months since the fellows started has it all gone smoothly? No. Have we learned some lessons along the way to help make this a vibrant program? Yes. Are we excited and encouraged to keep moving forward in the next 6 months? Absolutely!
So, what can you expect for the ISP Program in 2021?
Our current fellows will definitely continue doing amazing work in their state or legislative placements. We will keep you updated on their progress through more posts with highlights from their host and extension mentors. The intersection between public policy and professional practice is a connection that is a critical career pathway for our graduates. We are fortunate to have placements with key state and legislative agencies as well as extension educators who provide insights and opportunities for our fellows to grow their own perspectives and understanding of how what they do matters and impacts the communities of Illinois, and beyond.
We are also underway with recruitment for the ISP Class of 2021! We are looking for host agencies interested in applying for a scholar. Applications are due by January 15th and fillable forms are available for ease of submission. In February, we hope to receive a good group of applications from UIUC graduate students interested in applying for a position as a 2021 ISP Scholar. Although the name changed, the opportunity has not, and we are looking forward to another excellent year for the Class of 2021!
For now, stay safe, be well, and happy holidays from the EPECC team!