Patricia Byrnes, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Illinois Springfield
Publish Date
2024 Policy Summit logo with UIS and University of Illinois System logos

On Tuesday April 23, 2024 there is an all-day Policy Summit at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) campus.  The summit is sponsored by UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership and the University of Illinois System Institute of Government and Public Affairs.  The Summit engages people from academia, government, and community organizations in policy discussion and formulations.  From the agenda it is clear the summit provides diverse perspectives, an informative keynote speaker, and practical information and solutions to timely and relevant issues.

The first morning session of the Summit is a panel discussion, titled “Big Problems, Big Ideas: Why Policy.”  This panel provides diverse perspectives on the role of policy in bringing relevant research and practical ideas to difficult challenges facing Illinois.  The presence of policymakers including Illinois Senator Doris Turner, Representative Mike Coffey, and Ryan Croke from the Office of the Governor ensures the discussion is rooted in real policy considerations.  Professor Beverly Bunch, UIS Professor of Public Management and Policy, will add to the panel highlighting academia’s research on policy issues and contributions to policy formulation.

The lunch break provides a networking opportunity to connect decision-makers and other professionals.  The keynote speaker is Heidi Mueller, newly appointed Director of the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services. Director Mueller is a child welfare and juvenile justice expert. Since 2016 she served as director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. In 2020, Mueller launched the 21st Century Illinois Transformation Plan, which aimed to reshape the way youth are cared for in the juvenile justice system.  In a press release of her appointment, Governor JB Pritzker commented, "Heidi's care and compassion for the most at-risk young people in our state and her exceptional leadership are hallmarks of her career, and I know that her passion and expertise will be a significant asset as we continue to improve our state's child welfare system.” Gov. Pritzker Announces Heidi Mueller as Director of DCFS.  Sharing her experience will inspire attendees and set the tone for the afternoon’s discussions and beyond.

The Summit has policy tracks that cover a wide range of timely topics central to issues facing the state and Illinois communities, including education and family well-being, equity justice and human flourishing, substance abuse and fiscal, fiscal and economic impact, and environmental sustainability. Each track has three 90-minute sessions. Attendees can choose sessions that fit with their interests and expertise.   There are so many excellent presentations in each track that describing just a few presentations will demonstrate how they align with the theme of the summit-- offering theory, research, practical information, and solutions to timely issues.

Track 1 on education and family well-being has three excellent presentations, including a presentation by Kimberly Schonert-Reichl (Department of Psychology at University of Illinois Chicago) and Cara Wiley (West 40 and Illinois Healing-Centered Taskforce.) They present how research on social and emotional learning and youth policy jointly inform their work with school districts helping youth connect with programs and education that will impact their lives in a meaningful way.

The Equity, Justice, & Human Flourishing tract has three presentations on violence/safety, environmental justice, and youth and mental health issues.  Steven Schwinn, University of Illinois Chicago Law School, and Chakena D. Perry, senior policy advocate for environmental health at the Natural Resources Defense Council, will present the environmental justice session and will focus on equity issues surrounding lead in water.

The sessions in the Fiscal & Economic Impact track include a presentation by Richard Funderburg, School of Public Management and Policy at UIS, on the timely issue of the local economic impact of closing fossil fuel power plants.  His research suggests that there are differences in the health and economic impact of plant closures across and within communities.

The sessions in the Substance Abuse & Behavioral Health will address timely important topics, including behavioral health workforce challenges and opportunities in Illinois and the opioid epidemic and settlement. 

One session of Center for Urban & Rural Environment Sustainability track, includes five presenters across three Illinois agencies (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Rural Development office of U.S Department of Agriculture, and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.) They are presenting information on federal and state funding for water, energy, and sustainability projects.  In the other sessions, communities across the state are presenting their experience with ongoing water, energy, and sustainably projects.  For example, Scott Tess, Sustainability and Resilience Officer for the city of Urbana Illinois, will discuss the city’s investment in solar energy. Other presenters in this track include presentations on technical assistance for water systems and energy efficiency challenge’s facing communities.

Community members, community organizations, government officials, and academicians are encouraged to register and attend the Policy Summit.  The Summit promises engaged experience, offering attendees the opportunity to explore pressing issues facing Illinois communities and to contribute to meaningful dialogue and solution-building.  Without this interaction how can we, as a state or individual community, have the knowledge and tools needed to drive meaningful policies and solutions?

For more information, please visit IGPA/CSPL's Policy Summit.