If only the days on the calendar slowed to match my to-do list, more blogs would be written, more work would get done. But here we are and it’s December already, and I am just getting back to blogging. But what a year it has been for Illinois Extension’s Illini Science Policy Program (ISPP). The University of Illinois System’s Office of External Relations and Communication, and PepsiCo continues to help amplify the success of our program through their financial contributions which is a testament to their mission to bolster programs that enhance and enrich the lives of others, especially communities of color. Together, our collective visions look to increase the health and well-being of the communities of Illinois, especially those that have historically been underserved and underrepresented. The ISPP premise has always been to offer opportunities to postgraduates to see how the intersection of public service and public policy plays a critical role in so many aspects of how people live, how people work, and how people play. And in so doing, allows our ISPP Scholars an understanding that to better the ways of community means recognizing the needs at a systemic level to help better inform and advocate for the kinds of policy development which may be needed, and for what resources may be critical to better the livelihood of a household or neighborhood.
Our 2022 Scholars ended their appointments in remarkable ways both personally and professionally. At our 2022 Showcase, they shared their journeys with a room full of supporters including legislators, university administrators – even President Killeen joined us! – industry leaders, Extension professionals, ISPP supporters and alumni. You could feel the energy in the room, and you could see how small actions led to big impacts in starting to transform lives. In sharing their thoughts about their scholars, the 2022 hosts, said that our Scholars made an immeasurable impact, focus energy and intellect, and an implicit desire to learn and make a difference.
Lt. Gov Julianna Stratton had this to say about the ISPP, “The Illini Science Policy Program is about further developing exceptional talent that will analyze, create, and execute policy that benefits our state. I look forward to continuing to partner with the University of Illinois and Illinois Extension.”
This year, eight Scholars are continuing to carry on the legacy of past Scholars, doing significant work for our host agencies. We have Scholars using their expertise with a solution-mindset with backgrounds in education, law, engineering, urban planning, food sciences and nutrition. The Scholars all work for the benefit of the diverse communities of Illinois. These Scholars utilize their knowledge and expertise by exploring a variety of efforts including climate-smart agriculture, food insecurity, educational equity, digital equity, reproductive rights, voting rights, strategic planning, and health equity. As the 2023 Scholars move forward in the new year, their impact will be both broad and discrete as they look to fill the gaps and break down barriers. In just a few short months, they have recognized the power of defining their purpose within the landscape of their “why.” More importantly, they are already understanding that together there is power in what we do – no matter how big or how small the task - for those who may not always have a voice or a seat at the table.