Institute of Politics appoints inaugural executive director

Wen Huang
News Officer for Law, Policy and EconomicsUniversity Communications

The University of Chicago’s new Institute of Politics has selected education policy leader and administrator Darren R. Reisberg to be its first executive director, starting June 4.

As executive director of the non-partisan institute, Reisberg will reach out to students, interested faculty and staff in helping to build an organization for the Institute of Politics. He also will work closely with the institute’s inaugural director, College alumnus David Axelrod, AB’76, who will begin his duties in early 2013.

Announced in January 2012, the Institute of Politics aims to engage students who wish to explore careers in public and social service, and provide non-curricular opportunities for them to pursue interests in politics and policymaking. It will complement public service programs in the undergraduate College and the Harris School of Public Policy Studies.

“Darren is incisive and collegial, hard-driving and self-effacing,” Axelrod said. “He also gave up a lucrative law track at one of Chicago’s most prestigious firms to pursue a career in public service. In that way, he is a tremendous role model for the young people we hope to motivate. For that and many other reasons, I am thrilled he agreed to join our team.”

Axelrod will begin his leadership of the non-partisan institute after the 2012 presidential elections. He currently is senior strategist for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

Reisberg said he looks forward to being part of an effort that will offer students more ways to learn first-hand about public service. 

“It is clear to me that the University and David Axelrod are serious about providing meaningful opportunities to students who want to become engaged in politics and policymaking,” said Reisberg.

Since 2005, Reisberg has served the Illinois State Board of Education, most recently as deputy superintendent of education and general counsel. In his role, he worked with the state education superintendent and board on legal, policy and operational matters.

Reisberg will help the Institute of Politics put together the three programs at the core of the initiative: A new program of visiting fellows and policy practitioners, an expanded set of policy and public interest internships based on UChicago’s innovative Jeff Metcalf Fellows Program, and a series of public lectures about policy and political life.

While its programming will not officially begin until early 2013, Axelrod already has given the University community a taste of the events and dialogue that the institute will bring to campus. This week, the institute is hosting an election update with leading political analysts. The panel, moderated by “Meet the Press” host David Gregory, includes former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm; MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt; New York magazine national affairs editor John Heilemann; and Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. The latest forum follows a bipartisan election panel that was part of the institute’s announcement event in January.

Reisberg said one of his main priorities is to build a strong team to begin implementation of the non-partisan institute’s priorities. As the students return to campus this fall, he wants to work closely with them to discover their interests. He also hopes to develop a student advisory committee to help the Institute of Politics frame the types of experiences that will be of most interest and value to students.

“It is exciting to help lead the effort to provide University of Chicago students with fulfilling experiences that can, and hopefully will, lead to game-changing political and public service careers,” Reisberg said. “There is no better place to do that than the University and the city of Chicago.”

A Chicago resident for 12 years, Reisberg lives in the city with his partner and three dogs. Before joining the Illinois State Board of Education, Reisberg was an employment and labor attorney at Chicago law firm Sidley Austin LLP for four years. He also worked as a judicial law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, JD’79. Originally from New Jersey, Reisberg received his JD from Yale Law School and earned his AB in political science at Duke University.

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