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April 6, 2020

IOP Announces Transition Plans and New Programs for Spring Quarter


The Institute of Politics building.

Courtesy of Institute of Politics

The Institute of Politics (IOP) announced that it will be transitioning staple events to a digital format during a virtual town hall on Monday, April 30 discussing the impact of COVID-19 and distance learning on IOP events and programs in the upcoming quarter. The IOP will also launch new programs to better facilitate the needs of students.

The IOP Speaker Series will continue via Zoom. Students will be able to engage with speakers either through the Q&A feature or by submitting their questions ahead of time.

“We’ve got a really strong line-up that we’ve been working on,” Emily Stanitz, director of the Speaker Series said. Invited speakers, she added, include Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot (J.D. ’89); former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten Buttigieg, UChicago Medicine epidemiologist Dr. Emily Landon; and the crew of Pod Save America.

Buttigieg was slated to be one of the spring quarter IOP fellows, and Landon gained national attention after giving a speech at the news conference where Governor J. B. Pritzker announced a stay-at-home ordinance for Illinois.

Purvi Patel, the IOP’s Director of Civic and Campus Engagement, announced several new programs in the spring that allow students to stay engaged in local politics and public service. One of these is the COVID-19 Volunteer Corps, which connects students with remote organizations such as nonprofits and social service agencies so they can contribute their time and talents.

IOP is also launching the Civic Leadership Grant. “If you are seeing a need in your home community…and you want to innovate and create a solution, and need a little bit of seed funding and some support and mentorship to get you started, you can apply for civic leadership grants which will be launched next week,” Patel said.

Melissa Navas, the IOP’s Director of Career Development, addressed the concern that IOP internships would be impacted by the pandemic, saying that employers are still moving ahead with interviewing and hiring IOP applicants right now.

If an IOP internship becomes remote, Navas added, students would still be eligible for the stipend as long as they work 400 hours during the summer. The IOP has also increased the stipend for students who find public service internships on their own from $2,000 to $2,500.

Alicia Sams, director of the Pritzker Fellows Program, said that the planned spring quarter fellows, including Buttigieg and former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam, will not be able to hold office hours in the coming quarter. The IOP is working on rescheduling those, “but we are lucky to have a great group of former fellows who are volunteering to hold office hours this quarter,” Sams said.

Axelrod also discussed the current uncertainty regarding the Democratic presidential primary and the general election due to COVID-19. “It beats the hell out of me. I don’t know [what could happen] because this is uncharted waters,” Axelrod said.

Axelrod said that the mode of campaigning has completely changed because of social distancing guidelines. “In some ways this has advantaged the [sitting] president who now has a huge platform, and an important one, to speak to the country everyday…. [Former] vice president Biden has a challenge here in breaking through,” Axelrod said.

Axelrod also emphasized the IOP’s commitment to stay connected with students. “We don’t want to just speak at you. We want to speak with you. We want to know what is going on at your communities,” Axelrod said.

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