For press inquiries for David Axelrod, please contact Tim Skoczek at and Allyson Siegal at For inquiries about “The Axe Files” podcast and/or the Institute of Politics, please contact Matthew Jaffe at

David Axelrod, AB ’76

Institute Director

A University of Chicago alumnus, David Axelrod is a veteran of American politics and journalism and the former chief strategist and senior advisor to President Barack Obama.  He currently serves as director of the University of Chicago's non-partisan Institute of Politics; senior political commentator for CNN; and host of The Axe Files, a top-rated podcast jointly produced by CNN and his institute.  Axelrod, a former political writer for the Chicago Tribune and, later, media strategist for 150 state, local and national political campaigns, is also the author of The New York Times best-selling memoir, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics. For media inquires, please contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Steve Edwards

Executive Director

For more than two decades, Steve Edwards has covered politics and public policy as a journalist and program host. His work has appeared on the BBC, Bloomberg News, PBS, and on numerous public radio stations around the United States. Most recently, he spent nearly 14 years at WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR member station, where he served as host of the acclaimed daily shows The Afternoon Shift and Eight Forty-Eight. Steve has moderated numerous candidate debates, hosted the weekly political show The Best Game in Town, and was the correspondent for a BBC documentary on Chicago’s political culture. A native of Kansas City, he was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan and earned his A.B. in political science from Amherst College.

Crystal Coats

Director, Civic & Campus Engagement

Prior to joining the IOP staff, Crystal served as the Senior Manager of Corporate and External Partnerships at the Chicago Housing Authority where she worked with partners to provide resources for CHA residents through special events and programs. Crystal also spent time as the Assistant Director at the University Community Service Center at the University of Chicago, focusing on connecting students to the communities surrounding the University through days of service, volunteerism, community partnerships and advising students interested in community service. Much of Crystal's work has focused on engaging young people through mentorship, professional development and education. Crystal received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Missouri - Columbia and her Masters Degree from the University of Chicago Master of Arts Program in the Humanities.

Christine Hurley

Director, Speaker Series

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Prior to joining the Institute of Politics team, Christine worked as an Associate Producer for "Chicago Tonight" on Chicago’s PBS. While at channel 11, Christine was nominated for three Midwest Emmy Awards. She is a native of Chicago’s southwest suburbs. She received her BA in English Literature from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2009. Christine returned to Chicago after graduation and began work on her Master’s degree in Journalism at DePaul University, which she completed in 2011.

Matthew Jaffe

Director, Communications

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Prior to joining the Institute, Matthew Jaffe covered national politics as a reporter and producer for ABC Network News. Based in ABC's Washington, D.C. bureau, in 2008 he was an embedded reporter with the campaign of then vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden. After the campaign, he covered finance and the federal response to the economic crisis. In 2010, he was named ABC's digital reporter covering the U.S. Senate. The following year, Matthew covered the Republican presidential primary for both ABC News and Univision. Most recently, he was a reporter and producer based in ABC's Chicago bureau, covering stories such as Hurricane Sandy, the Boston marathon bombing and the election of Pope Francis. A native of Philadelphia, he earned his B.A. from Georgetown University and has also studied in Spain, England, Mexico and Costa Rica.

Karnika Iyengar, AB ‘11

Director, Career Development

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As a proud University of Chicago alumna, Karnika is thrilled to return to campus to serve the University community. Prior to joining the Institute, Karnika worked as a litigation paralegal at Covington & Burling LLP in New York City, focusing on intellectual property law, government, international affairs, and media. An Oklahoma native, she graduated from the University of Chicago in 2011 with a BA in Political Science.

Katrina Mertens

Director, Operations & Budget

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Prior to joining the Institute, Katrina most recently served as executive assistant to the general counsel and deputy superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education while she was completing an MA in counseling from Roosevelt University.  Prior to assisting the general counsel, she provided administrative support to the special education division for the Board. After earning a BS in criminal justice and urban studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2005, Katrina worked in the narcotics unit of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office and moved to Chicago in 2008.

Alicia Sams

Director, Fellows Program

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Alicia Sams comes to the IOP with over 20 years of experience producing and directing award-winning documentaries and feature films for television and theatrical release. She has worked on films covering politics and public affairs, the arts, and cultural history for distributors including HBO, IFC, PBS, AMC, Sony Pictures Classics, Sundance Channel, Koch-Lorber, and BBC. From 2006 to 2008, she chronicled the presidential campaign of then-Senator Barack Obama for HBO, a journey depicted in the Emmy Award-winning film “By the People: The Election of Barack Obama.” A frequent panelist and lecturer at festivals, colleges and universities around the country, Alicia is a native of Washington, D.C. and holds a BA in English from Harvard University.

Mallory McClaire

Associate Director, Events

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Prior to joining the Institute, Mallory McClaire worked at the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture where she assisted the Executive Director for three years.  Before entering this role, she was a researcher on the Chicago Neighborhood Tourism Project, a groundbreaking assessment of tourism assets in Chicago’s neighborhoods. Her background in event management includes work in Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center and with Mayor’s Office of Special Events. Mallory is a Chicago native and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Missouri.

Lucy Little, AB ‘12

Producer, Digital Communications

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Prior to joining the Institute of Politics, Lucy served as the 2012 - 2013 Dr. Aizik Wolf Human Rights Post-Baccaleaureate Fellow, where she worked with Heartland Alliance for Human Rights & Human Needs developing and implementing trauma-sensitive creative arts activities and group curricula for undocumented immigrant youth living in short-term residential programs in Chicago. A New York City native, she graduated from the University of Chicago in 2012 with a BA in music.

Zane Maxwell

Producer, Multimedia

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Zane Maxwell comes to the IOP from the Heartland Alliance Policy and Advocacy team, where he served as the Communications and Policy Intern. He has also worked with the Mikva Challenge, tutoring Chicago youth in social media advocacy and strategy. Zane is a long time filmmaker, graphic designer, and photographer and uses those skills to create everything from infographics to documentary films. He graduated in 2013 with a BA in Politics from Willamette University.

Ashley Jorn

Program Coordinator

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Prior to joining the Institute of Politics team, Ashley worked independently as a certified tutor and educational coach. She also spent nearly four years with The Metropolitan Club in Chicago, where she served as Program Coordinator in the Fitness Center and as Private Events Sales Coordinator for the Business & Dining sector of the club. Ashley has a B.A. in History from DePaul University.

Sam Gonzalez

2016/17 RISE Fellow, Partnerships & Engagement Coordinator

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As a recent graduate of Willamette University in Oregon, Sam is joining the Institute of Politics through the New Sector Alliance RISE Fellowship. While at Willamette, Sam applied his degree in Politics to a range of social purpose organizations, specifically focusing on racial and economic justice. In his free time Sam can be found cooking, listening to podcasts, and playing soccer. Sam is excited to support the diverse programs and students at the Institute of Politics.