Chicago IOP Seeks Harvard Guidance

Officials at the University of Chicago are collaborating with leaders of Harvard’s Institute of Politics as UChicago prepares to inaugurate its own IOP in January.

“We’ve been trying to help as much as we can,” said C. M. “Trey” Grayson ’94, director of the Harvard IOP.

At the start of this year, David M. Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, announced his plans to launch an organization at his alma mater in Chicago for students interested in public service careers.

Axelrod, who currently sits on the Senior Advisory Board of Harvard’s IOP, said that his new institute would be modeled after the existing one at Harvard.

Since then, leaders of Harvard’s IOP have reached out to help launch the Chicago program. Last spring, UChicago students and officials attended a conference to learn about Harvard’s IOP. And currently, the Harvard IOP is hosting Chicago IOP employees who are interested in reproducing Harvard’s fellows program.

Darren R. Reisberg, who was named the executive director of the Chicago program in May, said he hopes the cooperative relationship between the two organizations will continue.

“We already have very collegial and friendly relationships with our counterpart at Harvard’s [IOP],” Reisberg said. “I’d expect those to remain in place and for us to work together to think about the best ways to serve our students.”

Grayson, who added that Harvard’s IOP has inspired political institutes at other universities as well, said he thinks the partnership with UChicago is just as beneficial for Harvard’s IOP as it is for the fledgling program.

“There’s no competition, and what’s great is that we can learn a lot from other universities,” Grayson said. “We can communicate, work together, share ideas.”

Although the two institutes will share a bipartisan focus, Reisberg said that the Chicago IOP will differentiate itself by emphasizing urban politics and facilitating internships in city governance.

“My expectation is that, once we delve into our programming, once we formally launch, this institute will go in different directions based on the input of UChicago students and the UChicago community,” Reisberg said.

Reisberg said that the Chicago IOP has a twofold mission: to educate future civic leaders and to elevate UChicago’s status as a hub of political thought.

To achieve its first goal, the Chicago IOP will host forums and events to “provide a powerful supplement to the academic experience here at the University of Chicago by nurturing a passion for politics and public service on the part of the students,” Reisberg said.

To meet the second, Reisberg said he hopes to create an environment that will attract the thinkers and political heavyweights needed to enhance UChicago’s intellectual caliber.

“We want to be a destination point for politicians, policy leaders, and other public officials to come, convene, discuss, and resolve the issues of the day and the future,” Reisberg said.

Though the Chicago IOP, waiting for the completion of its building renovation, has yet to formally open its doors, it has already begun efforts to engage students.

In the past year, Reisberg said, the Institute has sponsored several events on campus, hosted watch parties for the presidential debates, and secured internships for students during last summer’s Republican and Democratic national conventions.

“We’re really excited to get going,” Reisberg said.