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Scholars Speak

2022: A new year: Continued progress and promise

2022 Scholar Cohort

2021 came and went. At times, it felt like if you blinked, you have would miss it. At others, it seemed like time was standing still. Time was such a strange construct. So much of what was going on was navigating a new normal. And for many of us, a new understanding of expectations and how best to manage those expectations. For me, it meant transitioning to a new position in Extension Government Relations, and continuing my leadership of the Illini Science Policy Program. For the first cohort of Scholars in the Illinois Science Policy Program, each day, each week, each month brought new opportunities and appreciation for what it meant to be working in the public sector, and giving back to the communities of Illinois.

In May of 2021, we graduated the first cohort of Scholars. The Scholars' efforts contributed in meaningful ways to the diverse communities of Illinois. Their projects were varied and impactful which showed them how at the same time the work you as a public servant can both empower you, and be empowering to others. Collectively the 2021 ISP Scholars supported underserved and underrepresented communities throughout Illinois with a wide range of initiatives. Their work ranged from looking for solutions for health, food and broadband disparities, surveying operations for efficiencies so that consumers have enhanced and safe products, and breaking language and education barriers, especially in health, STEM and STEAM related fields. The breadth and depth of the work they did through their host and Extension projects accounted for Illinois Connected Communities finding more drop spots in their neighborhoods, helping thousands of educators throughout Illinois identify and find needed resources to use in their classrooms that might already exist in their community, neighborhoods learning more about community gardens and how they may support food stability, and learning more about how healthy habits can start in the home. Their efforts helped to engage, enlighten, and envision a more hopeful tomorrow. For a more detailed look at the Scholars' efforts, read their impact report. If you are interested in learning a little more about the ISP Program, here's a Year One Summary.

As we said our goodbyes, we also said our hellos ushering in a new cohort of colleagues in the Summer 2021 along with their host agencies and Extension Mentors. I am excited with the work that the 2022 Class of Scholars is currently doing at their host state or legislative offices and in partnership with their Extension Mentors. The ISP Program awarded six Scholar placements at five agencies including:

2022 Illini Science Policy Scholar Placement

Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Broadband

Host: Matt Schmit
Extension Mentor: Nancy Ouedraogo

  • Shubhika Agarwal
  • Adrienne Pickett

Illinois Board of Higher Education

Host: Eric Lichtenberger
Extension Mentor: Durriyyah Kemp

  • Yasamin Khoshpour

Illinois Legislative Black Caucus / Black Caucus Foundation

Host: Tiffany Hightower
Extension Mentor: Sherri Ambrose

  • Skye Lewis

Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus / Latino Caucus Foundation

Host: Layla Suleiman Gonzalez
Extension Mentor: Margarita Teran-Garcia

  • Roberto Rojas Alfaro (Fall 2021) | Monserrat Carrillo Rodriquez(Spring 2022)

Illinois Office of the Lieutenant Governor

Host: Bobby Mannis and Charles Watkins
Extension Mentor: Anne Silvis

  • Susan Ogwal

What will follow in the coming weeks are perspectives from the 2022 Scholars as they speak to their placements.