Policy & Research Legislative Fellows Program

Illinois state capitol building in Springfield, Illinois.

The Center for Social & Behavioral Science (CSBS) launched the Policy & Research Legislative Fellows program in Summer 2022. This non-partisan initiative, supported by the Office of the Chancellor-Public Engagement, matches graduate students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with state legislators representing Champaign-Urbana or a neighboring district to collaborate on a policy research project that can inform public policy to help make Illinois a better place to live.

Potential areas for research project topics include, but are not limited to: the environment; health and housing; business and trade; criminal justice reform; government, taxes and infrastructure; and education.

Goals and Expectations

Student researchers use their expertise to contribute toward developing a policy agenda in a state legislator’s office, thereby gaining hands-on experience in bridging the gap between theory and practice at the state level. Students attend policy meetings with legislators and policy directors, watch legislative sessions and track bills to frame research activities that will assist in developing legislation from the ground up. In addition to research support and supervision from state policymakers, student researchers take part in seminars and professional development activities at UIUC.

The aim of the Policy & Research Legislative Fellows Program is to provide graduate students with:

  • First-hand experience and insight into the fast-paced legislative environment and law-making process
  • An understanding of how to connect research to real-world policy applications
  • Legislative and policy writing skills
  • Exposure to different policy and research areas that will help students evaluate their career interests and plans

Eligibility and Application Process

The application period for the Summer 2023 and 2023-24 Academic Year Policy and Research Legislative Fellows program is now open. Apply by December 31 at 11:59 p.m. Please view a recording of the info session held December 8th here.

All full-time UIUC graduate students whose departments allow them to take 50% RA positions are eligible to participate in the Policy and Research Legislative Program. Public policy is an interdisciplinary field and students from a variety of areas – including, for example, education, economics, law, political science, information sciences, food science and human nutrition, and social work – are encouraged to apply. No prior policy research experience is required.

Student researchers receive up to a 50% (20 hours per week) graduate student appointment for the semester(s) (e.g., Summer, Fall, and Spring) they participate in the program.

Placements are at legislators’ local district offices; each student researcher will coordinate with their supervisor regarding work hours and locations (including hybrid remote options). Please direct any questions to Elsa Augustine (elsaa@illinois.edu). Please note that the university will be closed December 23 through January 3. We encourage you to submit any questions regarding the application prior to Friday, December 23.

Meet the AY2022-2023 Policy & Research Legislative Fellows

The Center for Social and Behavioral Science (CSBS), with support from the Office of the Chancellor-Public Engagement, is proud to introduce the participants of the AY2022-2023 Policy and Research Legislative Fellows Program! The six students in this cohort represent 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. This cohort of scholars was selected from a competitive pool of applicants possessing the skills, the research expertise, and the passion to work on public policy and help make Illinois a better place to live. Both students and legislators are working to bridge the gap between theory and practice at the state level and connecting research to real-world implications.

James SteurJames Steur is a graduate student in political science placed with State Representative Michael Marron. James’ project has two primary aims: collect preliminary data about housing blight in District 104 and draft a succinct literature review that highlights the costs of housing blight and the benefits of a land bank for Illinois District 104. The goal of the project is to analyze this data and use existing policy and academic research to pass legislation in spring 2023 to create a land bank that addresses housing blight in the district. Other tasks in this project include communicating with local municipalities and researching current rehabilitation or demolition statutes in the State of Illinois.

Rebecca FolkertsRebecca Folkerts is a graduate student in Special Education placed with State Representative Carol Ammons. Rebecca’s project addresses the various problems of the Child Welfare System in the State of Illinois by researching US and international legislation and policies that could be applied to Illinois. The goal of the project is to design legislation and policy that will provide further preventive measures for families and youth in Illinois. Rebecca is also collaborating with a Child Welfare Working Group that includes a variety of stakeholders invested in child service provision and research. Learn more about Rebecca’s experience.

Dalton StewartDalton Stewart is a graduate student in Civil & Environmental Engineering placed with Senator Scott Bennett. Dalton’s project tackles the current spike in electricity bills in Illinois and researchers whether this price increase is caused by recent enactment of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). Moreover, the overarching goal of this project is to determine the best legislative approach to helping constituents with elevated electricity bills. To accomplish so, Dalton is exploring the scope of legislative authority, related existing programs in Illinois, and initiatives undertaken by other states. Learn more about Dalton’s experience.

Caleb GriffithCaleb Griffin is a graduate student in political science placed with Senator Chapin Rose. Caleb’s project addresses the following questions: 1) is police recruitment and retention a problem in Illinois and 2) if so, what can be done from a legislative perspective to improve that trend. To answer these questions, Caleb is conducting a literature review on police retention and recruitment policy, talking to relevant stakeholders (political leaders, police officials, etc.), interviewing former, current, and prospective police officers, and potentially surveying civilians to identify which reasons for not joining the police are most salient to them.

Ha Young ChoiHa Young Choi is a graduate student in Human Development and Family Studies and placed with State Representative Michael Marron. Ha Young’s project aims to determine why young individuals do not stay and find jobs in the state of Illinois (a growing trend that has intensified in the last few years). This project will collect survey data from three key population groups: young job seekers, young employees, and employers. Based on the collected data, Ha Young will work together with Marron and his staff to explore policy and legislative options that could address the gap between “the needs of young adults entering the labor force” and “the needs of the region’s industries.”

Edwin MonarrezEdwin Monarrez is a graduate student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership and placed with State Representative Carol Ammons. Edwin’s project focuses on teacher shortage(s) in Illinois. Edwin is organizing the Teacher Shortage(s) Working Group (TSWG) to meet regularly and discuss the issues, trends, ideas, legislation, solutions, and goals for drafting legislation that will help circumnavigate the issues around the teacher shortage. Discussions of this working group will address: 1) should the legislative research focus be on smaller, more tangible solutions or should the attention be geared towards larger barriers/issues, and 2) how can the Teacher Shortage(s) issue be resolved without consideration for the shortages for other related staff and faculty professions?

Advisory Board

A team of interdisciplinary faculty with policy expertise guide the design and implementation of the Policy & Research Legislative Fellows Program:

Jacob Bowers

Jacob Bowers
Political Science

Ashlynn Stillwell

Ashlynn Stillwell
Civil & Environmental Engineering

Jennifer Robbennolt

Jennifer Robbennolt
College of Law

Jennifer Delaney

Jennifer Delaney
Education Policy, Organization and Leadership

Bryan Endres

Bryan Endres
Agricultural & Consumer Economics

Liliane Windsor

Liliane Windsor
Social Work