I am mid-way through my fourth year spring quarter, so naturally I am feeling quite nostalgic. In reflecting fondly on many of my experiences at UChicago, one in particular comes to the fore: my involvement with the Institute of Politics (IOP) at UChicago. The nonpartisan Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago is an extracurricular program designed to ignite in young people a passion for politics and public service.
During my second year fall quarter, I was a Fellows Ambassador for the senior editor of The National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru. Although I have some contrasting ideologies to those of Mr. Ponnuru, I could not have been more thrilled to actively engage with his differing viewpoints on a daily basis. Spending time planning and facilitating his weekly seminars challenged me to think creatively and critically about complex interactions within the American political arena. Even today, I continue to grapple with many of the issues that he, as well as his visiting colleagues, raised.
Although the IOP welcomes so many tremendous guests, like Mr. Ponnuru, I find that its greatest accomplishment is inspiring dialogue amongst students from different backgrounds and political inclinations. The IOP’s founding director, David Axelrod AB ’76, an accomplished strategist and policy advisor for many political figures, like President Obama, believes in a non-partisan program that can inspire students to engage directly with ideas. Based on my experience, I can confirm that they do just that. For example, following the Mitt Romney, Eric Cantor, and Jon Huntsman events (to name only a few!), my housemates and I reflected on the points raised during these talks while we ate at our House table in the dining hall.
I would be remiss not to mention the IOP offerings beyond the plethora of guest speakers and quarterly Fellows. One of the most impressive attributes of the IOP is the significant number of internships available to UChicago students, including positions at the White House and the U.S. Department of State. In fact, over 20% of the UChicago students who applied to these internships were accepted this past summer! Although traditionally unpaid, the IOP provides stipends for these highly competitive internships.
Undoubtedly, the IOP will only continue to flourish – I wait with bated breath to see how its engagement with the upcoming election continues to develop! Read more about the IOP here: www.politics.uchicago.edu.