As an Illini Science Policy Scholar (ISP ), Adrienne Pickett is appointed with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Broadband. Her work with DCEO and Illinois Extension is instrumental in helping communities find funding for expanding broadband to underserved areas while also giving a voice to broadband issues around equity and access. Adrienne shared some thoughts with me about the ISP program, and her work so far.
Why did you apply for the Illini Science Policy Program?
I learned about the ISP Program from a friend and colleague, who was in the process of submitting an application and had asked me to read through her materials. As a teacher, who had experience with online learning during our current global pandemic, I was immediately drawn to two state agencies: the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO’s) Office of Broadband and the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), Education Group to build out Broadband access and adoption.
Tell us a bit about what you hope to accomplish as a result of being a 2022 Scholar.
I hope to contribute my knowledge and skill set as a former higher education administrator and instructor and pre-kindergarten teacher to help shape funding and programming proposals for Broadband initiatives at the state level that Illinois regions and communities can apply for and receive to help make internet access, adoption, and use more of a reality.
Tell us a bit about the project you are working on for your host agency.
As a scholar with DCEO’s Office of Broadband, I am working with its director, Matt Schmit, to conduct a preliminary study on the feasibility of creating a partnership between DCEO’s Office of Broadband and the University of Illinois’ Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation that could result in establishing a Center for Broadband Excellence in Digital Equity and Inclusion.
Tell us a bit about the project you are working with your Extension Mentor?
With my Extension mentor, Nancy Ouedraogo, I am developing a podcast called Women in Broadband that features women in leadership roles of Broadband advancement in our current Digital Age.
What makes the work you are doing as an ISP Scholar meaningful to you?
As a policy scholar with Extension, I can identify a clear trajectory from my early grad school days to my present postgraduate career of growing concern to not only conduct research but also to participate in action for the betterment of my community. My Broadband podcast project is allowing me to chart other narratives of women actors in the Broadband arena. As a policy scholar with the Office of Broadband, I am able to put my advanced degree in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership (Ph.D. 2020) to good use as I think through the historic policies, procedures, and practices that have led to the digital divide and critically evaluate and engage equitable and inclusive solutions.
What is one thing that you have learned since becoming an ISP Scholar that has made an impression on your transition from graduate student to career individual?
We are all learning to do this work, even people who have worked in technical and digital communication technologies for decades are learning.
Why is/are the issue(s) important to the communities with which you are working?
It’s vital for communities to recognize we are all having to navigate some of the challenges of adapting to new technologies and can learn a lot from each other.
Who is impacted by the issue(s) you are working on?
The entire state is impacted and will benefit from participating in digital literacy learning opportunities.
What is the most unexpected thing about this program so far?
I’m treated as a peer, rather than an intern.
If you could do one thing through this program and think “Wow, I did that,” what would you like it to be?
I’d love to see my finished Broadband podcast product available on multiple platforms for people to access, download, and listen to on their apps.
The Illini Science Policy Program is supported by University of Illinois Extension through the Illinois' Office of the Provost Investment for Growth program, participating host offices, the University of Illinois Office of Government Relations, and PepsiCo.