Institute of Politics names Steve Edwards, Jan Kostner to senior positions

The University of Chicago Institute of Politics has announced the appointment of key team members as it continues to build an engaging program of offerings for students.

These five new colleagues will help develop the non-partisan Institute of Politics’ three main components: a program of visiting fellows and policy practitioners, an expanded set of policy and public interest internships, and a series of public lectures about policy and political life.


  • Steve Edwards, an esteemed public affairs journalist at Chicago public radio station WBEZ, will join the Institute of Politics as Deputy Director for Programming on Oct. 1.
  • Jan Kostner, former Deputy Director at the Illinois Bureau of Tourism, has taken on the role of Deputy Director for Events and Marketing as of Sept. 18. 
  • Dillan Siegler, a Chicago Booth graduate, and for the past two years, director of the UChicago Careers in Public and Social Service program, will be the Senior Associate Director, Internships and Student Civic Engagement, as of Oct. 1.
  • Amin Cyntje, director of National Journal Live in Washington, D.C., will be the Senior Associate Director, Fellows Program as of Oct. 8.
  • Katrina Mertens, who has served as Executive Assistant to the General Counsel at the Illinois State Board of Education, has served as the Institute’s Executive Assistant and Office Manager as of early September.

“We are committed to giving University of Chicago students an unparalleled chance to interact with practitioners across the political spectrum and explore careers in the public arena,” said David Axelrod, who will assume his duties as Institute director in January. “I look forward to working with our students and this remarkable, accomplished team to help deliver on that vision.”

Along with Axelrod and Executive Director Darren Reisberg, Edwards and Kostner will form the core leadership team for the Institute of Politics in its mission of creating new opportunities for students to explore careers in politics and public service. They will play leading roles in the development of the Institute’s three core components.

“We have put together a stellar leadership team. For 15 years, Steve has hosted some of the most interesting public affairs programming on radio. His experience and depth will ensure that the Institute of Politics will be the home for many provocative forums in the years to come,” Axelrod said of Edwards.

“Jan’s experience in coordinating major events and publicity campaigns will be a great help as the Institute develops audiences for its events and works to develop a thriving discussion about politics and policy,” he added about Kostner.

As the Institute’s Deputy Director for Programming, Edwards’ duties will touch all of the Institute’s initiatives, including oversight of the visiting fellows program and the internship and student engagement activities. He previously served in numerous on-air and managerial roles at WBEZ, most recently as host of Afternoon Shift, a discussion of news, culture and ideas. He also has been the station’s Director of Content Development and Acting Program Director, and from 1999 to 2008 he served as host of Eight Forty-Eight, WBEZ’s acclaimed news and public affairs program.

“I’m deeply passionate about the mission of the Institute of Politics,” Edwards said. “My work as a journalist has been about creating a deeper understanding of the world around us, engaging communities in conversations about important issues, and being part of the search for policy solutions. In this role I’ll be pursuing many of the same goals, alongside talented students, colleagues and political practitioners. It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity.”

As the Institute’s Deputy Director for Events and Marketing, Kostner will have primary responsibility for executing the speaker series, as well as conferences and special events that the Institute will host. She was a leader in the Illinois Bureau of Tourism’s marketing and development efforts, helping the state attract increased numbers of visitors, with substantial economic benefits to the state. She oversaw the creation and launch of the campaign, “Illinois. Mile After Magnificent Mile,” and spearheaded the communications effort for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum opening in 2005, positioning the museum and city of Springfield as a premier tourist destination.

“I am thrilled to be a part of the Institute of Politics,” said Kostner. “After a career in the public and private sectors, I am looking forward to helping make the University of Chicago a center for provocative political debate and stimulating events, and to exposing young people to opportunities in the public square.”

“This is an exciting and fast-moving time for the Institute,” said Reisberg. “We are deeply grateful for the support that the University community has shown for the Institute’s mission, and we are eager to move forward on multiple fronts as we enter the Fall Quarter and approach the Institute’s formal launch in January.”

Announced in January 2012, the Institute of Politics has been building upon the success of the political forums that the Institute hosted in January and May. The progress has included creating a new website and social media channels, renovating the Institute’s future home at 5707 S. Woodlawn Ave., hiring new staff members, and most importantly, developing exciting opportunities for UChicago students.

For example, 12 students benefitted from new internships developed at this summer’s two major political conventions. At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., students got a first-hand look at the highest levels of the American political process, creating new opportunities for learning and career development.

The Institute of Politics also is developing an engaging campus event for Oct. 3, the date of the first presidential debate. UChicago students will conduct a debate, which Edwards will moderate, at the Logan Arts Center to address the major issues confronting our nation, considering many policy options and political perspectives. The event will be followed by an opportunity for students to view the presidential debate live.