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Illinois Extension announces 2024 scholars in program promoting public service careers

ISSP Scholars 2023-2024

URBANA, Ill. — The Illini Science Policy Program, administered by University of Illinois Extension, is excited to name nine University of Illinois graduates to its fourth class of ISPP Scholars. By matching advanced-degree graduates from University of Illinois System institutions with hosts in state agencies and legislative offices, the ISPP Scholars will tackle challenges related to agriculture, digital technology, education, and health equity while also using their skills and expertise to provide significant pathways for Illinois Extension and their host agencies to help inform policy on such issues as smart climate technology, STEM education, food insecurity, and broadband.

“Illinois Extension through the Illini Science Policy Program offers our Scholars the opportunity to see the impact they can have, often on the most vulnerable populations in our diverse neighborhoods, through the work they do in their host placements and the policies they help inform and envision,” says Evangeline S. Pianfetti, ISPP program director.

ISPP Scholars work on various projects building their leadership and policy-research skills throughout their year-long placements while also engaging in various events to build their professional networks. Through their work with host partners, they experience opportunities to transform lives throughout our diverse Illinois communities.

Deputy Secretary for Innovation & Technology Brandon Ragle commented on their three-year partnership with the Illini Science Policy Program, “The Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology appreciates the contributions that our Illini Science Policy Scholars have made to the State of Illinois, and we look forward to another year of participation in the innovative program. The Scholars offer a youthful perspective that is often hard to capture in state government, and they share an impressive and professional skill set that we value." 

This year, the Illini Science Policy Program expanded its scope to include candidates from the UIS and UIC campuses with support from University of Illinois System President’s Office and Office of External Relations and Communications.

The ISPP also receives continued support from University of Illinois’ Office of the Provost, the host agencies, and PepsiCo. “At PepsiCo, we believe education is an equalizer that enables individual development, supports economic growth, and brings positive change to communities,” says Armando Saleh, PepsiCo’s Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs. “Through our continued support of the Illini Science Policy Program, we are helping to create opportunities for Black and Hispanic students pursuing careers in public service by providing financial support, mentorship, and career development tools. We are proud that this program, in partnership with state legislative leadership, develops a diverse talent pipeline to tackle issues facing communities through developing sound public policy.”

Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chairwoman Carol Ammons sees the potential of what ISPP Scholars can do throughout Illinois as future public leaders. She strongly advocates supporting programs such as the ISPP that “transition students from the classroom to make impactful work in the public sector to provide a continuum of fresh ideas and solutions to the needs of government and its constituents.”

The 2024 Illini Science Policy Program Scholars and their hosts are:

Susan Ogwal, Policy Director for the Illinois Office of Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, shared that as an alumnus of the ISPP, her experience was life-changing as she learned how impactful the intersection of public service and public policy was for the communities of Illinois. She is grateful to mentor her second Scholar through this program and continue to do good work for the people of Illinois.

This class of ISPP Scholars will soon engage in a wide variety of experiences through their collaboration with their host agency and Extension mentors, with host agencies seeing these opportunities as a way to provide meaningful experiences to graduates who, in turn, help inform policy that better the lives of the residents in our Illinois communities. 

SOURCE: Evangeline S. Pianfetti, Illinois Extension ISPP Program Director,

WRITER: Dolan Klein, Sr. Manager for Marketing and Communications,

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. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.