Scaling back Civil Leadership Program a regrettable move

We were disappointed to learn of the University’s plans to scale back the Civic Leadership Program. CLP is a 2 ½ year program combining an off-campus internship, seminars with state and local leaders, and a group master’s thesis on an issue of public policy.

During the internship semester, we receive a generous stipend to cover living expenses. This allows us to participate in interesting internships around the globe, even if we ordinarily wouldn’t have had the means to do so.

Fellows have worked at the White House, Department of State, U.S. Congress and various other international and nonprofits. 

Once we return to campus, we leverage the skills and experiences gained in our internships to complete a master’s thesis. 

When we were informed by our program director that his appointment would be terminated and the master’s degree portion of the program would be closed, we were shocked.

In gathering more information about the closure, we learned that because of budget constraints, the political science department plans to restructure CLP into an undergraduate-only minor in leadership. We offered to support efforts to find donors to sustain the graduate program, but the department swiftly rejected our offer.

Given the public nature of this institution and the large number of stakeholders who are affected by this restructuring process, we would have expected a more open and transparent review process. Instead, after our most recent meeting with the department, we were informed that it is the sole responsibility of the political science faculty to restructure this program. 

At this time of year, we should be working to recruit new students to join next year’s class. With little more than conceptual plans available for a watered-down minor in leadership, the prospects of bringing on a new cohort of Civic Leadership fellows are diminishing.  

Furthermore, we believe that the master’s degree is a central component of the Civic Leadership Program and can’t in good faith support a plan without it. 

Until the department of political science and College of LAS agree to work with current and former fellows, we have no reason to trust that this is anything more than a political move.  We will continue to engage the Student Senate, Academic Senate and relevant stakeholders to protect our voice in this process. 

In CLP’s seven years on this campus, many alumni have gone on to start successful careers in business and public service. In light of leadership issues on this campus and in the State of Illinois, CLP’s goal of developing twenty-first century leaders is critical.

Lauren Eiten,

CLP fellow and Illinois Student senator

Max Ellithorpe,

CLP fellow and Illinois Student senator