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U of I System Updates

The University of Illinois System will honor former President Barack Obama on Friday, Sept. 7, with the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government, presented annually by the system’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) to recognize public officials who promote the highest standards of public service.

Read the news release.


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced a new initiative to make an Illinois education more accessible to in-state students. The Illinois Commitment is a tuition promise to help students whose families make $61,000 or less – the current median family income in Illinois – by fully covering four years of tuition and fees.

Read more about the program.

Discovery Partners Institute Update

August was a busy month for the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI). On August 24, University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen announced William H. Sanders, an award-winning educator and researcher who headed nationally ranked engineering programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been named interim director of the DPI, a new world-class innovation center led by the U of I System. 

Read the news release.

On Tuesday, August 28, the University of Illinois at Springfield was announced as the first hub of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). Several state and federal officials spoke at the event, including Gov. Bruce Rauner, U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood, and state Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez. Later that day, President Killeen, Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation Ed Seidel, and Sanders testified about DPI before the Illinois Senate Higher Education Committee. The hearing highlighted how DPI will help to grow the economy through increased research discovery.

Read the news release.

During a forum for faculty and staff on Wednesday, August 29, the U of I System also announced priorities in Urbana-Champaign for a portion of $500 million in state capital funding approved to develop DPI and IIN. Building a world-class center devoted to the fast-growing field of data science and expanding an award-winning Research Park are top priorities as the U of I System works to launch the new statewide innovation network, which will accelerate job creation and economic growth.

Read the news release.

The U of I System also announced funding priorities for UIC during a forum for faculty and staff in Chicago. State capital funding will be used to build a new Drug Discovery and Innovation Pavilion, the Computing Design, Research and Learning Center and to expand the UIC Innovation Center.

Read the news release.

University Highlights

University of Illinois at Chicago

University of Illinois at Springfield

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Legislator Spotlight

This edition provides a conversation with state Sen. Michael Hastings, who received an MBA from Urbana-Champaign. Sen. Hastings is also an alum of the John Marshall Law School, which recently merged with UIC.

What is your favorite memory from your time at the University of Illinois?

What I enjoyed most was being around like-minded people who were motivated and want to do good in the world. It was great experience to learn with my classmates.

How did a University of Illinois education prepare you for your career/current role? 

The most valuable part of an education from the University of Illinois is the diversity. Students come from so many different countries, religions, and backgrounds. It teaches you how to work with people better and how to respect everyone. This has directly impacted me as my role as a state senator.

Give us your take on the state of higher education at the state level. 

It is important to make sure higher education is funded and it hasn’t been funded properly under the current governor’s administration. There is a lot of improvement to do and we can get it done. It starts with making sure students stay in Illinois for their education. I think Illinois has the best universities in the country and it should stay that way.

Advocacy in Action

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch met with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin while he was on campus on August 11. In addition to their meeting, they both took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the 11th Street extension, which will directly connect UIS to downtown Springfield. Chancellor Koch updated Sen. Durbin on the growth at UIS and the impact that the Discovery Partners Institute will have on the area.


Gov. Bruce Rauner was joined by President Tim Killeen, Urbana Chancellor Robert Jones, Trustee Stuart King and other public higher education leaders on August 21 when he signed a series of bills to support higher education. Included in this signing was AIM HIGH, a bill that will guarantee qualifying students MAP grant funding for all four years. The governor also signed a bill to create a task force with high schools and colleges to better understand the needs of students. Both of these bills will help to keep Illinois students in state for college.


On August 15-16, the U of I System's Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) hosted a retreat in Urbana to reimagine the institute and explore ways it can become the go-to source of evidence-based public policy research for legislators and other decision makers. The two-day discussion included state Sen. Scott Bennett and former state Rep. Bob Pritchard. Also joining the representatives were Mark Denzler, executive director of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, and Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council.


On August 20, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis and the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Rep. Phil Roe, hosted a roundtable discussion at UIS with veteran services and financial aid officials from across Rep. Davis' district. Representing UIS were Mark Dochterman (Veterans Services), Rebecca Prather (Financial Aid), and Ashti Dawson (graduate student and past president of the UIS Military and Veterans Club). Garrett Anderson, outreach coordinator for the Chez Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education, participated for Urbana-Champaign.


On August 23, Gov. Rauner signed Senate Bill 2362 into law. This legislation, which passed both chambers nearly unanimously, provides an exemption to the state Procurement Code’s restriction on long-term leases in order to build an outpatient ambulatory surgical center at UIC. The new ambulatory surgical center, which will be located across the street from the hospital, will replace the outdated Ear and Eye Infirmary and allow UI Health to serve more patients with new technology in a more efficient setting. 


OGR Visiting Community Relations Coordinator Deon Thomas engaged with several members of the Illinois Legislature this month, including state Reps. Camille LillyChris Welch and Will Davis. In these meetings, Thomas heard from legislators about their thoughts and concerns regarding the U of I System and higher education in Illinois.

OGR Team Update

Emily Tuttle has joined OGR full-time as the Federal Relations Specialist. She began with OGR in 2017 as the office’s inaugural student fellow and is excited to be permanently with the team. Prior to joining OGR, she was an intern for the U of I Alumni Association’s Illinois Connection program.  She also interned on Capitol Hill with the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health and with Congressman Rodney Davis.  At the state level, Emily interned with Lt. Gov.  Evelyn Sanguinetti and state Sen. Bill Brady.  

Emily has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in business administration, with a minor in political science.



Jennifer Creasey, Senior Director of State Relations

Paul Weinberger, Director of Federal Relations

Melissa Haas, Associate Director of Federal Relations

Deon Thomas, Visiting Community Relations Coordinator

Emily Tuttle, Federal Relations Specialist