Adrian Talbott appointed executive director of UChicago Institute of Politics

Mark Peters
News Director and Social Sciences SpecialistUniversity Communications

Adrian Talbott, a leader in civic engagement at the University of Chicago, has been appointed executive director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

Talbott, who serves as director of strategy, research initiatives and development in the Office of Civic Engagement, will join the Institute of Politics on Aug. 1. Talbott’s experience prior to joining the University in 2014 includes co-founding and serving as executive director of Generation Engage, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing civic participation among college-age youth.

“Adrian has devoted his life to encouraging young people of all political persuasions to become active, engaged citizens; for him, this work is not a job but a mission,” said David Axelrod, the founder and director of the Institute of Politics. “He has the experience, energy and commitment to help build on the tremendous momentum the IOP has established in five short years on campus. We are thrilled to welcome him.”

The nonpartisan Institute of Politics is a leader on campus and across the country in igniting a passion for politics and public service among young people, through speakers and visiting fellows, career development programs, and opportunities for civic engagement and community service. Talbott will oversee the institute’s extracurricular programs and staff, while advancing new initiatives and building and strengthening partnerships with other units of the University and outside organizations.

Axelrod thanked the institute’s outgoing executive director, Steve Edwards, who was instrumental in growing institute programing and building its strong staff. Edwards was recently appointed vice president and chief content officer at WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station.

“The IOP would not be what it is today without Steve Edwards,” Axelrod said. “His brilliant, sensitive leadership has earned him the love and respect of IOP students and staff and my undying gratitude. We borrowed him from journalism five years ago and return him today, trailed by a litany of accomplishments that have made a positive mark on so many young lives. He will be missed.”

In the most recent academic year, the Institute of Politics brought to UChicago 165 speakers, including then-Secretary of State John Kerry, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton as well as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, CNN President Jeff Zucker and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Students active with the Institute of Politics had an opportunity to meet with former President Barack Obama during his visit to campus in April.

The institute provided 250 internships, held political exploration trips, and oversaw community engagement and volunteer programs. Seventeen fellows, including former United Kingdom Cabinet Minister Douglas Alexander and Washington Post reporter and “Washington Week” host Robert Costa, spent time at the institute, sharing with students.

“I am grateful and excited for the opportunity to join an organization that has done so much in its first five years. I look forward to working with the stellar team at the institute to build on its successes and momentum and help advance the institute’s work with a new generation of leaders in politics and public service,” Talbott said.

In UChicago’s Office of Civic Engagement, Talbott has worked with faculty and staff to advance urban research, develop funding opportunities for civic engagement initiatives and lead strategic planning. Talbott spent four years leading Generation Engage, the non-profit organization he co-founded that used technology and grassroots outreach to increase civic participation among young adults, on and off college campuses. He also served as program director of CGI Lead at the Clinton Global Initiative, overseeing a program that brings together emerging global leaders.

Talbott started his career working on political campaigns in North Carolina and as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate. He received a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College.

The institute began programming in 2012, before officially opening in January 2013 under the leadership of Axelrod, AB’76, who served as chief strategist and senior advisor to President Obama and is currently the senior political commentator for CNN. Its goal is to enrich political discourse and to help inspire a new generation of leaders by providing opportunities for students to engage with leading public servants and political practitioners.