As an ISP Scholar, Yasamin Khoshpour is appointed with the Illinois Board of Higher Education. She uses her data analysis expertise to look at program specific outcomes for graduate and professional studies within the state of Illinois. She also is supporting efforts in socio-emotional learning and racial healing for teachers throughout the state. Yasamin 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 heard about the Illini Science Policy Program during the chaotic last months of my graduate school. It’s challenging to prepare for graduation while you struggle to find the right career path for you. I applied for ISP Program because I found it to be a peaceful opportunity to explore the available options of finding a career in public policy. I say peaceful because I found it hard to do the job search when I was a student as I was busy taking courses and finishing my studies. I knew I wanted to continue my work as a social justice planner, and that’s why ISP Program was a great fit. Providing one year of experience in my favorite activity area could help me know my strengths and weaknesses, what I’m good at and what I need improvement in, and most importantly, what I’m interested in!
Tell us a bit about what you hope to accomplish as a result of being a 2022 Scholar?
I’ve always sought to learn more about the systematic inequalities that lead to critical socio-economic gaps. I hope to play a role in studying the equity gaps in Illinois. I believe there is still a lot that needs to be explored and discovered around the equity issues of the urban communities in the USA. I also like to get closer to what I want to do in my professional career. I hope to gain some experience in public policy work that will help me pursue the right path for the rest of my career path.
Tell us a bit about the project you are working on for your host agency.
At the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), we look at a vast amount of data on higher education in IL. Most of the data analysis in higher education focuses on undergraduate students. I help IBHE add graduate and professional program data analysis to their studies. For the project I’m doing at IBHE, I try to better integrate outcomes specific to graduate and professional programs in the state of IL.
Tell us a bit about the project you are working with your Extension Mentor?
There are two major projects we are working on with my extension mentor, Durriyyah Kemp. One is a racial healing training workshop. And the other project is holding some focus groups with Illinois Network of Charter Schools teachers on various topics related to socio-emotional intelligence.
What makes the work you are doing as an ISP Scholar meaningful to you?
I think what makes my work as an ISP meaningful to me is that both extension and the host agency have put most of their effort in making sure that we work on a worthy project for the community. Worthy in terms of finding solutions through taking a step back and making sure we are studying the problems and gaps completely.
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?
I have learned that doing public policy work is a personal passion. It’s fascinating to realize that your very personal concerns are the same as those you work on in your career.
Why is/are the issue(s) important to the communities with which you are working?
In both extension and host agency projects, we try to look at those who have been overlooked. Graduate and professional programs students are an essential asset to higher education institutions and the community. This group of students impacts their community a lot, and it’s important for policymakers not to overlook them. With the project I’m doing with my extension mentor, we focus on different traumas experienced by the individual.
Who is impacted by the issue(s) you are working on?
What I’m trying to do is taking a forward step in the process of recognizing equity gaps. I think the projects I’m working on could impact a diverse group within the community. Therefore, this process could affect many people involved in the education system from different aspects.
What is the most unexpected thing about this program so far?
I am allowed to decide about the projects I like to be involved in, and there is no pressure in doing something I don’t want to. It’s not like a 9 to 5 job where you have to finish some tasks without having a say in them or knowing why you are doing it. I find this very helpful, and of course, unexpected because I didn’t think I could have so much role to play in this position!
If you could do one thing through this program and think “Wow, I did that,” what would you like it to be?
I like to work on data about immigrants’ communities and learn more about them. I would be happy if some of the work I’m doing with my extension mentor ends up being helpful to the immigrant community of Illinois.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m forever thankful for the support of our wonderful supervisor at the ISP Program, Dr. Pianfetti. I’ve been learning a lot from her, and I’m very much glad that I was given the opportunity to work with her.
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.