This week, we say goodbye to the many graduates who participated in the Institute of Politics' programs this year. Below, six departing students describe their experiences with the Institute.
The College, Political Science major
In her 2001 "Aims of Education Address" at the University of Chicago, political theorist Danielle Allen offered the following insight into the nature of citizenship: "Citizenship is the struggle, carried out through conversation, to achieve accounts of the world that accord with friendship and provide grounds for action." My involvement in the Institute of Politics has been especially meaningful for me because it has allowed me to engage with my peers about the political and civic life of our country and, in so doing, has helped me to cultivate a critical understanding of the world that will help to inform my work for years to come.
As a programming intern at the Institute these past few months, I have also had the opportunity to work with an amazing staff. I am inspired by their dedication to the Institute’s mission and by the excellence they bring to bear upon their work on a daily basis. In particular, I want to thank Steve Edwards for his guidance and support and for granting me the opportunity to be a part of this Inaugural year of programming. I wish the Institute much future success and look forward to supporting the great work the Institute will continue to do.
The College, Fundamentals major
I was incredibly honored to have the opportunity to work with the Institute of Politics in its inaugural year. I don't think anyone could have imagined what an impact the IOP would have on campus in just one year, but it has truly been transformative. For me personally, the IOP has given me access to incredible thinkers and speakers who I would never normally have a chance to learn from, and convinced me that pursuing public service really will be worth it.
Most of all, though, being a member of the Student Advisory Council has been a wonderful experience. I never thought that I would be able to interact with the campus through so many avenues, made so many friends from all over the University, or baked so many cakes for surprise parties! I wouldn't have done my senior year any other way.
Harris School of Public Policy/Center for Middle Eastern Studies
The Institute of Politics has been an invaluable resource for me in my last year of graduate school and my involvement with the Student Advisory Council has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far. I have always been interested in politics and policy and, as a student of political science and public policy, I have enjoyed exploring the theoretical sides of these subjects as well as following their practical application in history and current events. However, I could not have imagined how much the opportunities to hear directly from political leaders and elected officials presented by the IoP would change my outlook and my life. Over the course of this year, conversations with guests, fellows and staff at the IOP have impacted my understanding of the political process in important ways and renewed my interest in participating as a voter, organizer, and future public servant. It is exciting to think of how many other lives are and will be changed by the brilliant work of the IOP and its mission.
The College, Political Science major
There were many times during this inaugural year that I remarked to myself, "Are they serious right now?" I asked this question not because the IOP's programming was out of touch, but because it was so out of bounds from what had previously been available on campus. While the U of C occasionally hosted a political dignitary or media mogul, the IOP was offering us these and more nearly every day of every week. For those of us interested in politics, the presence of practitioners was the only thing we lacked at this University (the academics and theorists, we have covered). Though the lessons I've learned from these new experiences have not always been uplifting, they have all nonetheless been educational. Learning from practitioners has better informed me about what I do—and do not—want to do, better than ever before.
The College, History major
My involvement with the Institute of Politics has meant everything to me. It has changed everything about my experience at the University of Chicago, and my favorite memory is every bit of it.
When the University announced that the Institute of Politics would open this year I’d hoped to be involved. I couldn’t have anticipated how significant the Institute would be to my life. To say my involvement with the Institute of Politics has meant everything to me is not hyperbole. It’s given me insight into how to carry out an initiative and how people work together. Because I learned that you don’t need to accomplish everything at once, it also taught me how to embrace reality but not sacrifice hope. I’ve found myself both challenged and inspired by conversations with the speakers and fellows, with my fellow students, and with the incomparable, unparalleled staff.
One of my favorite aspects of this inaugural year has been the excitement that the Institute has generated. It filled a need that we didn’t even know we had. We welcomed Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elie Wiesel, Madeleine Albright, Michael Bloomberg, Newt Gingrich, John Ashcroft, Eric Holder, Jon Favreau, Jon Huntsman, Gary Hart and Steve LaTourette, to name only a few. Each of who, in front of enthusiastic audiences, revealed personal truths and raised thorny questions. The Institute of Politics created a space for political plurality.
When we began, the Institute of Politics—at least from the student’s perspective—was not much more than a premise. I applied to be part of the Student Advisory Council hoping the Institute would counteract the tendency to only seek out like-minded people and stop there. I hoped for a forum where ideas would hold great importance and rigorous examination would be fostered. I hoped it would reflect the ideals of the University as said by President Robert Zimmer at the 500th Convocation, and that the Institute would, like the University, also be an environment of "…constant questioning and challenge, of evaluating our own assumptions, of energy in pursuit of clarity, of ideas and not deference, of belief in the impact of ideas on the quality of human life...."
As I look back on this year, that hope could not have been more completely fulfilled.
The College, Political Science major
As I began my fourth year at the University of Chicago, the Institute of Politics officially opened. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of all that the IOP had to offer. You see, I’ve always been completely obsessed with all things political—I’ve spent two summers in Washington, D.C., I’m a political science major, and I’ve seen every episode of "The West Wing"—but until this year, I hadn’t had much of an opportunity to engage personally with politicians and policymakers here at UChicago.
But at the IOP, I found myself immediately surrounded by figures whose names regularly appeared in newspaper headlines. This year alone, I attended a question and answer session with Timothy Geithner, met Jon Huntsman, ate Harold’s Fried Chicken with Lt. Gov. Shelia Simon, discussed the Catholic electorate with Peter Flaherty, heard Peter Sagal speak, and witnessed David Axelrod bowl. I even served as a Fellows Ambassador for Vanity Fair contributing editor Bethany McLean, author of "The Smartest Guys in the Room."
I’m grateful that the Institute of Politics has created a place on campus that serves to inspire students, promote dialogue, and provide opportunities. I’ve learned about a whole range of industries and sectors that I previously knew nothing about, and I’ve been able to meet students from every division of the University who are equally passionate about solving the problems that face our nation and our world.
Though in a few short days I’ll be graduating and joining the ranks of UChicago alumni spread across the glove, I’m thrilled that I won’t be too far from the Institute of Politics—I’ll be staying in Chicago next year and working as Communications Manager right next door for The Paulson Institute, and I’m hoping to stay involved in any way I can!