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Illinois Extension announces 2025 cohort in program promoting public service careers

The rotunda at the Illinois state capitol

URBANA, Ill. — The Illini Science Policy Program, administered by University of Illinois Extension, is excited to name seven University of Illinois graduates to its fifth class of ISPP Scholars. By matching advanced-degree graduates from the University of Illinois System 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’s Illini Science Policy Program is strong, it is growing, and it is creating a legacy of individuals who promise to change the future. There is no topic that we are too afraid to cover if it means supporting communities and bringing a voice to neighborhoods that are historically marginalized. We are grateful for our partnerships that allow us the breadth and depth to do this,” 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 diverse Illinois communities.

The ISPP expanded its scope two years ago to include candidates from the U. of I. Springfield and Chicago campuses with support from the University of Illinois System President’s Office and Office of External Relations and Communications.

“The Illini Science Policy Program is an example of how U of I System graduates continue to help address significant challenges, to give back to a variety of communities throughout the state,” System President Tim Killeen said. “At the same time, the program provides valuable experience and opportunity for our young alumni, making it highly beneficial on both sides of the equation. I am so proud to support this program and to encourage the participation of potential ISPP Scholars.

This year, the ISPP will continue its partnership with several agencies and also welcomed a new host agency, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security. These partnerships provide opportunities to engage with communities throughout Illinois. 

“IEMA-OHS is eager to step into this new partnership with the Illinois Extension’s Illini Science Policy Program,” said IEMA-OHS Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “As we pursue our goal of developing and implementing effective, data-driven policies and programs that reach diverse communities across the state, the opportunity to host post-graduate level scholars ensures that we build the talent pipeline we need to achieve that goal."

The 2025 Illini Science Policy Program Scholars and their hosts are:

ISPP 2021 alum Allison Wheeler shared that her time with the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology gave her hands-on public service experience. “The program's key objective to address critical issues in our communities provides the creative space and platforms for scholars and host institutions to push boundaries of change for the betterment of our state and influence policy change with the best and brightest minds from the University of Illinois.”

The 2025 scholars will begin their programs with their host agencies in July through orientations, events, and community engagements. The Scholars will also attend a 2024 Policy Summit in August hosted by Illinois Extension and the Center for Social and Behavioral Sciences to learn more about the intersection of public policy and public service. 

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

WRITERS: Dolan Klein, Illinois Extension sr. manager for marketing and communications,; Emily Steele, media communications manager,

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.