Steve Edwards, who has helped shape the University of Chicago Institute of Politics’ successful lineup of events and student internships, has been appointed to serve as the institute’s next executive director.
Edwards, who has been the nonpartisan institute’s deputy director for programming since the initiative officially launched in January 2013, will take on the new duties beginning March 31.
As executive director, Edwards will oversee the institute’s programs and staff, develop its capacity through grants and fundraising to ensure its long-term success and sustainability, as well as build and strengthen strategic partnerships with other units of the University and outside organizations.
“This will be a seamless transition for the institute, and we’re extremely fortunate to have Steve at this crucial moment for the institute’s growth,” said Institute of Politics Director David Axelrod. “As a member of our core leadership team, Steve has been instrumental in building the institute through an diverse array of robust programming and internship opportunities, enabling UChicago students to interact with policymakers and scholars across the political spectrum and explore careers in the public arena. His creativity and hard work will help us in the essential task of inspiring the next generation of leaders.”
Axelrod also thanked outgoing executive director Darren Reisberg, who oversaw the institute’s launch and rapid growth. Reisberg has been appointed to serve as Secretary of the University, also effective March 31.
“We are immensely grateful for the leadership that Darren has provided, and for his essential role in making UChicago’s Institute of Politics a national model in an astonishingly short amount of time,” Axelrod said.
Before joining the Institute of Politics in October 2012, Edwards spent nearly 14 years at WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR member station, where he served in both on-air and managerial roles, as host of the acclaimed daily shows The Afternoon Shift, and Eight Forty-Eight and as the station’s director of content development and acting program director. His work has appeared on the BBC, Bloomberg News, PBS and on numerous public radio stations around the United States.
Edwards has moderated numerous candidate debates, hosted the weekly political show The Best Game in Town, and was the correspondent for a BBC documentary on Chicago’s political culture. A native of Kansas City, he was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan and earned his undergraduate degree in political science from Amherst College.
“I’m excited by the opportunity to build on the tremendous momentum we’ve established so far and I look forward to working with the team to offer programs that enrich our political discourse and inspire the next generation of political and public service leaders,” Edwards said.
Fourth-year Shayan Karbassi, chair of the IOP student executive board, said Edwards has wide support from the many students who are passionate about the institute’s mission.
“Steve Edwards is an amazing asset to the institute,” Karbassi said. “He is not only dedicated and compassionate, but he takes great care to ensure that student voice drives the direction of the institute. He is the consummate professional, with incredible work ethic and a genuine personality, and I look forward to his leadership of the IOP moving forward.”
At the Institute of Politics, Edwards has worked with the core leadership team to create a vibrant set of programs designed to ignite in students a passion for politics and public service. In its first year, the institute has organized more than 140 events involving 240 prominent politicians and policy makers including Vice President Joe Biden; U.S. Sens. John McCain, Claire McCaskill and Tim Kaine; Govs. Haley Barbour, Jerry Brown, Jeb Bush and Pat Quinn; authors Doris Kearns Goodwin and George Packer; Mayor Rahm Emanuel; and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel. Many of those events, including the recent speech by Gov. Deval Patrick in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were undertaken in partnership with other units of the University.
The institute also has launched successful programs of resident and visiting fellows as well as 200 paid summer and academic-year opportunities for students in just its first year.
The Institute of Politics was announced in early 2012 and began programming that summer, before officially opening in January 2013 under the leadership of Axelrod, AB’76. 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.