Celebrating the 2022-23 Policy & Research Legislative Fellows

Executive Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement Wanda Ward
Executive Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement Wanda Ward

The Center for Social & Behavioral Science (CSBS) recently celebrated the accomplishments of the Policy and Research Legislative Fellows (PRLF) 2022-23 cohort. Launched during the Summer 2022 semester, this non-partisan initiative, supported by the Office of the Chancellor-Public Engagement, matches Illinois graduate students with a state legislator representing Champaign-Urbana or a neighboring district to collaborate on a policy research project that can inform public policy and help make Illinois a better place to live.

In opening remarks, Executive Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement Wanda Ward discussed the value of public engagement with our land grant institution and how higher education must play a crucial role in rebuilding and shaping the future of society. “Higher education for democracy must cultivate its students’ will and ability to analyze, think critically, and identify novel solutions to issues brought forward by others, including by government,” said Ward. “This program is another example of how we are embarking on a path to reimagine and expand how Illinois engages with our society and communities.”

The inaugural cohort represents five units in four different colleges, encompassing a diverse array of fields of study, from civil and environmental engineering to special education to political science. Throughout the 2022-23 program, both students and legislators worked to bridge the gap between theory and practice at the state level, connecting research to real-world implications.

The Fellows, Legislators, & Projects

Ha Young Choi | Human Development & Family Studies
Office of State Representative Michael Marron
Illinois Workforce Development Project: It Takes a Village to Attract and Retain Young Workforce

Rebecca Folkerts | Special Education
Office of State Representative Carol Ammons
Problems and Solutions within the Illinois Child Welfare System: Starting the Exploration

Caleb Griffith | Political Science
Office of State Senator Chapin Rose
Police Recruitment and Retention in Illinois

Edwin Monnarez | Education Policy, Organization, & Leadership
Office of State Representative Carol Ammons
The Illinois Teacher Shortage(s): Can the Sinking Boat of Education be Saved?

James Steur | Political Science
Office of State Representative Michael Marron
The Possibility of Land Banking: Addressing Blighted Properties in Illinois District 104

Dalton Stuart | Civil & Environmental Engineering
Office of the late State Senator Scott Bennett
Post-Enactment Evaluation: The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act and Electricity Prices in Illinois


During their project presentations, the fellows discussed the benefits of their experiences in the PRLF program. Ha Young Choi shared that participation in the program provided the opportunity to enjoy and value the research process. “I’ve always been engaged in analysis of data that has already been collected and this was the first time I collected data and engaged with survey participants. Now I can see not only numbers and trends, but really picture the people in my data,” said Choi. “I also learned that inclusion really starts with little acts of sensitivity to the different circumstances of each participant and that is a very valuable lesson for me as a researcher who will continue to work in data collection.”

PRLFs Ha Young Choi & James Steur, State Representative Mike Marron & Legislative Assistant Marguerite Bailly, & PRLF program leaders Elsa Augustine & Bob Flider

In closing remarks, former state representative and Illinois Director of Community and Government Relations Robert Flider thanked CSBS, Dr. Ward, the legislators, and the fellows for their work to initiate the PRLF program. “It’s like building an airplane as it takes off, and it’s flying in many ways. You, as policy research fellows, have really helped legislators get to a place where they might otherwise not reach were it not for your efforts,” Flider noted. “I’m so grateful to our legislators for seeing the benefits of this program and to our grad students for helping to build this plane as we go.”

The 2023-24 PRLF program began May 15, 2023. The five students in this cohort kicked off the program with an all-day Policy Summit, uniting PRLF fellows and scholars from the Illini Science Policy Program to learn about policy research, design, and communication. Meet the 2023-24 PRLF cohort.

For more information about the Policy and Research Legislative Fellows Program, contact Elsa Augustine, CSBS Research Development Manager. To receive special announcements about center activities and services, education programs, workshops, partnership opportunities, and more, subscribe to the CSBS newsletter.

Written by Hannah Wirth