David Axelrod, AB ’76

Institute Director

A University of Chicago alumnus, David Axelrod is a 40-year veteran of American politics and journalism. Prior to becoming a political consultant, Axelrod spent eight years as a reporter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune, including a stint as the City Hall bureau chief. As a political consultant, Axelrod has managed media and communications strategy for more than 150 local, state and national campaigns. Axelrod most recently served as Senior Strategist to President Obama's successful re-election campaign. He served in that same role in then-Senator Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, before going on to serve in the White House as Senior Advisor to the President. After the 2012 campaign, Axelrod turned his focus to the Institute of Politics to help inspire and train the next generation of leaders. For media inquires, please contact David's Chief of Staff .(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.

Kate Grossman

Director, Fellows Program

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Kate Grossman spent nearly 20 years as a print journalist, both as a reporter and as an opinion writer, before joining the IOP. She was an IOP fellow in spring 2015, teaching a class on the Politics of School Reform, and came on full time in the fall. Most recently, Grossman was deputy editorial page editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, writing editorials on education, the Illinois state budget and a variety of city and state policy issues. She also worked as a metro reporter at the Sun-Times, covering schools and public housing, and at the Associated Press, The Providence Journal and ABC 20/20. She is a two-time winner of the national Education Writers Association top opinion writing award for editorials on the Chicago Public Schools and a winner of the Studs Terkel Award for coverage of Chicago's diverse communities. She has an undergraduate history degree from Cornell and two masters, in public policy and journalism, from Columbia University.

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.

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, Speaker Series

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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.

Dillan Siegler, MBA ‘00

Director, Partnerships & Engagement

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Dillan Siegler is the Director of Partnerships and Engagement and a member of the IOP's founding team. In this role, she oversees over 300 student engagement and internship opportunities for UChicago students, and helps manage the IOP's 100-plus on- and off-campus partnerships. Dillan has worked at the University for six years during which time she founded and managed the UChicago Careers in Public and Social Service (UCIPSS) program at Career Advancement; a program geared to helping students translate their UChicago educations into meaningful public service careers post-graduation. Prior to coming to the University, Dillan ran the Adult Training and Employment Program at a westside non-profit, which provided resources and services to individuals with criminal backgrounds, disabilities, and other significant barriers to employment. Dillan received an MBA in Managerial and Organizational Behavior from UChicago's Booth School of Business and a BA in Psychology from Yale University.

Karnika Iyengar, AB ‘11

Associate Director, Internship Programs

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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.

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.

Christine Hurley

Producer, 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.

Lucy Little, AB ‘12

Outreach Specialist

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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

Multimedia Specialist

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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.

Maggie Stohler

2015-2016 New Sector/AmeriCorps Fellow, Partnerships & Engagement Coordinator

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Maggie comes to the Institute of Politics through the New Sector Alliance's Residency in Social Enterprise fellowship, an 11-month program for individuals pursuing careers in non-profit work. A Philadelphia native, she spent the past year serving in the Philly Fellows program where she worked at a pro bono legal services nonprofit. Maggie graduated from the University of Delaware in 2014 with a BA in International Relations.

Leah Siskind, MA ‘12

Chief of Staff for David Axelrod

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Leah is a proud UChicago alum and former employee. She spent five years working for the Israeli Foreign Ministry in consulates and in the Ministry itself in Jerusalem. Throughout that time she worked with members of congress and state legislators to increase cooperation between Israel and the United States in areas such as homeland security, R&D, and environmental management. She has also worked in the Pentagon in Air Force analysis and at C-SPAN as a headline writer for the news ticker. A native of Oakland, California, Leah completed a double major in Political Science and Spanish Linguistics at Purdue University and received her masters in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago.