2023 Scholar Application

The Scholar application is live and is due on or before April 8, 2022.

To apply, send completed materials to uie-connection@illinois.edu.

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.


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 2021  and Aug 31, 2022. 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 approximately $25/hr ($48,500 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, 2022, based on agreement between the host, scholar, and Extension.


Application deadline: April 8, 2022. Download the application.

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. Download template.
  4. Copies of graduate student transcripts. Unofficial copies will be accepted.
  5. Proof of graduation by start of appointment will be required.

How to submit your application:

  • Submit electronic files comprising your application as PDFs to uie-connection@illinois.edu.
  • Include your last name in the file names for each section of the proposal (e.g., Smith_statement.pdf or Smith_cv.pdf), if you do not combine your files into one pdf.
  • IMPORTANT: To maintain confidentiality, letters of recommendation should be submitted directly from the referee to Extension at uie-connection@illinois.edu 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. Download template.
  • 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 by April 19. 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 Scholar

March /April


Rolling application admission - Extension reviews applications for
program eligibility.
Last day to submit an application is April 8, 2022


Friday 4/8- COB

Last day to submit application – Rolling admission


Friday 4/22

Last day for host to send priority list of matches to Extension


4/25- 4/28

Matching process



Host + Scholar matches announced


Wednesday 6/1

Scholars may begin term with host office





Wednesday 8/31

Last day Scholar may begin term with host office



Legislative Host Placement

  • Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation
  • Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus and the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation
  • Illinois Office of the Lieutenant Governor, Juliana Stratton
  • Congressional appointment – potential position (pending)

State Agency Host Placement

  • Illinois Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Health and Welfare (pending)
  • Illinois Department of Agriculture, Division of Natural Resources (pending)
  • Illinois Board of Higher Education | College Readiness
  • Illinois Board of Higher Education | Early Childhood
  • Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology, Education Group
  • Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Broadband

Download Host Scope of work / project snapshots

Learn about the Scholars' placement in their own words. Read the blog!

Past State Agency Partners
Illinois Board of Higher Education (2021)
Illinois Department of Agriculture, Meat and Poultry Division (2020)
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Broadband (2020, 2021)
Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology, Education Group (2020)

Past Legislative Partners
Illinois Legislative Black Caucus / Black Caucus Foundation (2020,2021)
Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus / Latino Caucus Foundation (2020, 2021)
Illinois Office of the Lieutenant Governor (2021)

For additional information about the program contact:

Dr. Evangeline Pianfetti
Outreach Associate, Government Relations | Director Illini Science Policy Program