URBANA, Ill – Public policy informs planning, funding, and implementation of solutions to address real-world challenges for Illinois communities and requires motivated leaders whose work amplifies the voices of those most challenged. Susan Ogwal has been named new policy director for the Office of Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton following a year of working in Stratton’s office as an Illini Science Policy Program (ISPP) Scholar through University of Illinois Extension.
Ogwal will draw from insights, experiences, and community connections formed through the ISPP to continue seeking equitable solutions to benefit the lives of all Illinois residents.
Ogwal holds a Ph.D. in education policy, organization, and leadership and a master’s degree in education, both from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s College of Education. She has a background in social services, with interests in workforce development, immigration policy, international education, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. In 2019, Ogwal co-founded the C-U Black and African Arts Festival, whose mission is to bring a culturally diverse experience to Champaign-Urbana residents by expressing Black and African heritage through cultural assets such as arts, music, and fashion.
The Illini Science Policy Program pairs advanced degree University of Illinois Urbana Champaign graduates with host agencies throughout the state to bring the latest advances from campus to address critical issues affecting food, economy, environment, community, and health.
During Ogwal’s 2021 to 2022 ISPP appointment, she accompanied Lt. Governor Stratton on a statewide listening tour of 11 public universities to learn more from students, community stakeholders, and educational leaders about diversity in education and the growing teacher shortages throughout Illinois.
“I am absolutely thrilled with the work of Dr. Susan Ogwal, whose brilliance and hard work made her an invaluable part of my team,” says Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “I look forward to continuing to partner with University of Illinois Extension as we collaborate for positive change and provide opportunities for mission-driven public servants.”
Ogwal also helped to launch the Lt. Governor’s Agriculture Equity and Food Insecurity Initiative, which promotes diversity and equity in the agriculture industry and access to nutrient-dense, culturally relevant food for all. She visited communities throughout Illinois to connect with residents, organizations, and state legislators in efforts to advance education, career pathways, and opportunity in the agriculture industry.
"Agriculture is the number one industry in Illinois, but when we look at the work being done, we see a lot of disparity in emerging farmers, especially with Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color who are in that industry,” says Ogwal. “And we also can’t talk about agriculture without talking about food and making sure it’s accessible to everybody.”
We need to make sure that everybody has food on the table when we talk about the equity work that needs to be done, says Ogwal.
As part of her ISPP experience, Ogwal partnered with Extension community and economic development mentors, Anne Silvis, assistant dean, and Nancy Ouedraogo, state specialist, to develop a Poverty Simulation Workshop action plan guide to help workshop facilitators translate meaningful findings into actionable insights to benefit communities of the simulation participants.
“We wanted to help participants think critically about work they do – to take ideas from the workshop, identify critical issues facing their community, and then determine the next steps to address those issues,” says Ogwal.
“This opportunity and transition taught me to stand up and be proud of who I am and what I have to give,” says Ogwal. “There is a world of opportunity waiting for us to say ‘yes’, and you just never know whose lives you might touch with the work that you do.”
SOURCE: Evangeline S. Pianfetti, Illini Science Policy Program Director, University of Illinois Extension Government Relations
WRITER: Liz Smith, Media Communications Coordinator, University of Illinois Extension
ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. The Illini Science Policy Program is led by Illinois Extension with support from the University of Illinois Office of the Provost, University of Illinois System, and PepsiCo.