Scholar FAQ

Why be a scholar?

The Illini Science Policy Program is an opportunity to explore public service careers that make a positive impact in Illinois, solving critical issues in food, economy, environment, community, and health. ISP Scholars work with hosts in government agencies and legislative offices on substantive and emerging issues of public concern in Illinois, supported by mentorship that fast-tracks your growth and professional development. Scholars also gain on-the-ground experience in community outreach and problem-solving through collaboration with the University of Illinois Extension network, which offers educational programs to residents of all of Illinois' 102 counties.

The Illini Science Policy Program trains the next generation of public service leaders in Illinois to solve problems, strengthen partnerships, and build a better future.

Who can apply to be a scholar?

The program is open for participation by graduate students completing their degree (Masters, Doctoral, or J.D.) from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Springfield or Chicago between May 2023 and August 31, 2024  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 before starting the appointment.

Can International Students Apply to be a scholar?

Yes, if you are able to apply for OPT you are eligible to apply for this position. Illinois Extension does not sponsor visas.

Can ISPP Scholars work out of state or out of the country?

This position is designed for work within the state of Illinois. There are university policies and protocols that must be followed for working while in another state or overseas and that needs to be handled and approved prior to any work taking place on a case by case basis. 

How do I apply to the program? 

All interested applicants are required to complete and submit an application through the University of Illinois employment portal.

When does the appointment begin?

Scholars must begin their placement in host offices in the Summer 2024. Although start dates may be flexibility with host agencies, most ISPP Scholars will start mid-July.

What kinds of projects are available to scholars? 

Hosts identify clear goals and objectives for a scholar to contribute to substantive research, policy, or management issues in Illinois relating to food, economy, environment, community, and health. Projects are also expected to provide educational benefit and professional growth and exposure for the scholars.

What are the allocation amounts for my appointment?

University of Illinois Extension will administer an overall appointment which will be valued at approximately $50,000 per scholar over the 12-month placement. $2000 will be set aside for ISPP approved travel. Additional travel associated with the program may be covered by the host agency at the agency’s discretion.

Does University of Illinois provide my health insurance?

No. However, scholars are eligible to apply for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

How are hosts and scholars matched?

Applications will be screened by staff within University of Illinois Extension and host offices for the selection of finalists to interview. Finalists will then be invited to interview with hosts, with host and scholar rankings submitted to Extension for final matches.

Can international students/alumni apply?

International students may be eligible to apply if they are authorized to work in the United States throughout the full 12-month appointment period, and do not require any visa assistance from Extension. Illinois Extension and the host agencies do not sponsor visas.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact International Student and Scholar Services and confirm their eligibility prior to applying.  If selected as a finalist, proof of visa status must be confirmed. 

Are all finalists matched with a host?

Finalists become Illini Science Policy Scholars only once they are matched with Hosts. Unfortunately, finalists are not guaranteed a match as this is based on interviews and rankings with the host offices.

How can finalists prepare for interviews?

  • Carefully review the host agency project descriptions and explore the host agency’s website to understand their mission, services, and background.
  • Think about what kinds of questions you will be asked during the interviews and brainstorm answers. Ask a friend or relative practice interviewing you.
  • Prepare your questions about the host agency in advance, such as project assignments, work culture, team members, and mentoring and professional development opportunities. Asking questions shows that you have done your homework and are interested in the position.
  • If you are interviewing with multiple hosts, come to the interviews with an open mind; don’t predetermine where you want to be placed.
  • Remember that an interview, as well as the appointment itself, is an educational opportunity.
  • Remember that hosts are hoping to make a match just as much as you are. Stay relaxed, and good luck!

For other questions, contact contact Dr. Evangeline Pianfetti at 217-244-7568 or email