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Scholars Speak

A Servant's Heart: The task is arduous, the road is long

ISPP Director Evangeline Pianfetti with Scroll

It’s hard to believe that this summer the Illini Science Policy Program ushered in its fourth cohort of Scholars. In many ways this program, which at one point seemed as if it would be one of the many victims of COVID, has steadily gained its strength and recognition building momentum by helping people because our Scholars understand the intersection of public policy and public service. Much of that has to do with the fact that our Scholars – our postgraduates who may start this program with an admission of not really knowing what to expect, or even why they got selected - end up making a meaningful impact because of their grit and determination that is lead by a servant’s heart.

Over the past four years, twenty-eight Scholars have served in eight host offices. They have taken on challenges related to digital, educational, environmental, agricultural and health equity. They’ve tackled issues related to sustainable agriculture, food insecurity, dual credit programming, nutrient loss, supporting STEM/STEAM education within our classrooms, workers’ rights, and supporting immigrant communities. They do all this while learning what it means to engage in informing policy and empowering communities by bringing voices to the table or by being the voice at the table. ISPP does this through partnerships and through understanding that united we are stronger in knowing how we best transform lives in big and small ways so that we may positively change the trajectory of what communities or an individual are expecting. 

As I reflect on the past three cohorts, and get to know this new cohort, one thing that is evident and uniting them all is their servant’s hearts. At their core is their desire to do more, be more, serve more for the betterment of humankind. They are motivated by opportunities and possibilities that push them beyond their comfort zone. They push themselves to learn how their knowledge and skills can contribute to solutions which could significantly change the way people perceive hope so that they believe in a promise of a better tomorrow. Our Scholars are making a difference even though the tasks may be arduous, and the road may be long (Confucius) and they continue to make a commitment to public service beyond their ISPP placement. For this, I will always  be grateful to be part of this journey, even when the road may seem the long and arduous.  

*special thanks to Yu Tian and the 2023 Scholars for the scroll with the Confucius saying which Yu so brilliantly scripted for me.


  • Oluwakemi Adeyemi (2023), Doctorate, Law (UIUC)
  • Maria Cynthia Anderson (2023), TBD in July
  • Chukwuemezie Charles Emejuo (2023), Doctorate of Public Administration (UIS)
  • Elizabeth Gutierrez (2023), Chief of Staff, Latino Caucus Foundation
  • Oluwaseun Ojo (2023), M.S. Law & Finance, Oxford
  • Alicia Ross (2023), Visiting Coordinator, Broadband Lab
  • Yu Tian (2023), Traveling, pursuing Doctorate, Urban Planning
  • Patrobas Wafula (2023), Doctorate, Public Administration/ALEC
  • Susan Ogwal (2022), Policy Director, Illinois Office of the Lieutenant Governor, Juliana Stratton
  • Shubhika Agarwal (2022), Broadband Impact Specialist
  • Adrienne Pickett (2022), Senior Director for Early Childhood Education and Teacher Education Pathways
  • Roberto Rojas Alfaro (2022), Assistant Professor, Linguistics, Salt Lake Community College
  • Skye Lewis (2022), Public Health Liaison, CDC Foundation
  • Yasamin Khoshpour (2022), Assistant Director of Data and Accountability Systems, Illinois Board of Higher Education
  • Monserrat Carrillo-Rodriguez (2022), Visiting Specialist, Integrated Health Disparities, Illinois Extension
  • Hannah Price (2021), Lecturer & Livestock Judge, Fresno State
  • Allison Wheeler (2021), International Global Education and Training Coordinator, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Ruth Adekale (2021), Med School applicant, Crisis Nursery
  • Diamond Ruffin (2021), Allendale Assoc., Clinical Case Manager
  • Ana Paula Bustamante (2021), Preserving Guatemala's natural resources:

More information about the Illini Science Policy Program is available on our website. Keep reading to learn more about 2024 ISPP Scholar Class.