The scholar application deadline is extended to February 26, 2021.

To apply, send completed materials to

Update 1/25/21: The eligible period of graduation has been changed to May of 2020 (previously 9/1/20) through August 31, 2021. Host offices for 2021 have been posted below. View available project descriptions.

Program Description

The Illini Science Policy Program is a unique opportunity for graduate students with an interest in public service careers completing their degree from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The program matches highly motivated and qualified Scholars with hosts in Illinois public agencies or legislative offices for a 12-month paid appointment working in University of Illinois Extension’s critical issue areas – food, economy, environment, community, and health. Hosts provide an educational opportunity for Scholars to explore public research, management, and policy issues at a high level, while the Scholars provide substantial professional contributions to the office.

Hosts will supervise, mentor and provide opportunities for Scholars to be involved in critical issues that support the scholar’s professional and educational goals. Scholars work with the host office full-time, on site and with other staff and/or leadership, as appropriate. As part of their experience, Scholars will collaborate on an Extension project that aligns with their program assignments, connecting to Extension’s network of nearly 700 staff across all 102 Illinois counties.

In 2021, Extension plans to select up to 10 finalists who will be awarded appointments, depending on the size of the applicant pool and number of host offerings. The length of an appointment is 12 months, non-renewable. This year’s appointment period will begin June 1, 2021, with an expected start date between June 1 and August 31, 2021, based on agreement between the individual host, scholar, and Extension.


The Illini Science Policy Program is open for participation by graduate students completing an advanced degree (Masters, Doctoral, or J.D.) from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign between May of 2020 (previously 9/1/20) and Aug 31, 2021. Graduates should have interest and expertise relating to University of Illinois Extension’s critical issue areas: food, economy, environment, community, and/or health. Scholars must complete all degree requirements prior to beginning their appointment.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. Minorities, women, veterans, and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

This is a security-sensitive position.  Comprehensive background checks, including but not limited to a criminal conviction information check, a CANTS check, and a review of the Registered Sex Offender list, will be conducted. The University of Illinois conducts criminal background checks on all job candidates upon acceptance of a contingent offer.

Funding and Expenses

Each scholar will receive a 49-week Academic Hourly appointment at a rate of $22.71 ($44,511 annually) plus reimbursement for appointment-related travel up to $1,500. Additional travel associated with the appointment may be covered by the host agency at the agency’s discretion. Participating Scholars will be eligible for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Support for the Illini Science Policy Program is provided by participating host offices, the U of I Office of the Provost Investment for Growth program, Illinois Extension, and generous donors.

Length of Assignment

The length of assignment is 12 months (non-renewable). The appointment will begin between June 1 and August 31, 2021, based on agreement between the host, scholar, and Extension.


Application deadline: February 26, 2021

Applications must include the following: 

  1. A completed Scholar Application Template. This includes a personal education and career goal statement that emphasizes the applicant's abilities and interests and the applicant's expectations of the program (800 words or less).
  2. Personal and academic curriculum vitae (two pages or less using 12-point font).
  3. Two letters of professional recommendation, including one from the student's major professor. If no major professor exists, the faculty member who is most familiar with the applicant academically may be substituted.
  4. Copies of all undergraduate and graduate student transcripts. Unofficial copies will be accepted.

How to submit your application:

  • Submit electronic files comprising your application as PDFs to
  • Include your last name in the file names for each section of the proposal (e.g., Smith_statement.pdf or Smith_cv.pdf).
  • IMPORTANT: To maintain confidentiality, letters of recommendation should be submitted directly from the referee to Extension at by the application deadline to be considered. Please address letters to Dr. Shelly Nickols-Richardson, Director, University of Illinois Extension.  Late submissions may lead to the rejection of incomplete applications. Candidates are encouraged to work with referees to meet the deadline. 
  • Late applications cannot be accepted.  It is your responsibility to get materials submitted before the deadline.


Finalists are selected by staff at University of Illinois Extension and participating host offices based on written application materials and interviews (in person, Skype, or phone) of a subset of applicants. Selection criteria include: academic ability, communication skills, diversity and appropriateness of academic background, career goals, additional qualifying experience, and support referrals.

Hosts will be invited to screen applicants with Extension personnel in late March and identify finalists for interview. Hosts and finalists will schedule interviews in March, with scholar matches announced April 5. Placement of a Scholar in each prospective host office is not guaranteed.

Matched Scholars will work with the program coordinator to identify Extension projects aligned with their assignments to engage with, for a total of 2 months FTE over the course of the 12-month appointment, distributed as makes sense for the project.

Important dates for Scholars

February               26           Scholar applications due 

February               1-5          Extension and hosts screen program applicants

March                    8-31        Hosts interview and rank finalists

April                       5             Host + Scholar matches announced

June                       1             Scholars may begin term with host office

June                       TBD        Scholar orientation, Champaign-Urbana

August                   31           Deadline to begin term with host office


Participating hosts for the 2021 are:

  • Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation
  • Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation
  • Illinois Board of Higher Education
  • Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Marketing
  • Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology
  • Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Broadband
  • Chicagoland Congressional District Office (anticipated, TBD)

View available project descriptions.

Learn more about current hosts and scholars on our blog.

Additional Information

For FAQ and additional information about the program, visit or contact:

Evangeline Pianfetti
Outreach Associate, Research & Fellowships
Extension & Public Engagement Connection Center