Civic Leadership at UChicago

CLA classroom

The Office of Civic Engagement (OCE), through its Civic Leadership Initiatives team, stewards the University of Chicago’s commitment to the scholarship, teaching, and practice of civic leadership, helping to cultivate civic leaders who think critically, imagine new systems, and build resilient communities.

OCE leads programs that help strengthen the ability of emerging and experienced civic leaders on the South Side and throughout Chicago to become more effective leaders and better serve their communities. The office also acts as a thought partner to UChicago staff in units across campus in their efforts to advance civic leadership initiatives and facilitate connections among University faculty, staff, and graduate students and local civic leaders.

By initiating, piloting, and refining new programs and platforms, OCE has helped establish the University as a center of civic innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration in the field of civic leadership. For instance, OCE created and piloted the Civic Leadership Academy, a six-month program for local nonprofit and government professionals now housed at the Harris School of Public Policy.

If you would like more information about how an urban research university can partner with its home city to advance the work of civic leaders, please contact Joanie Friedman, executive director of civic leadership, in the Office of Civic Engagement.

Learning Beyond the Classroom Workshop

Educators from secondary, post-secondary and community-based settings are invited to join the DKDK Project and The University of Chicago for a workshop focused on transformational teaching practices October 2 -4, 2023. Designed in partnership with the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement, this workshop is a unique opportunity to delve into the following questions: Designed in partnership with the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement and the Institute for the Formation of Knowledge, this three-day workshop is a unique opportunity to delve into the following questions:

  • How can educators use the city as a classroom?

  • How can place-based learning advance the civic engagement of students?

  • How can inquiry skills improve learner engagement?

  • What are the characteristics of deep learning (as opposed to surface and strategic learning) and how can teachers facilitate deep learning

  • How can educators design learning experiences that amplify the voices of local experts and historians in order to deepen students' interest in history?

Participants will begin and end each day at the University of Chicago. In between seminar-style discussions, participants will engage in hands-on sessions in the community. This workshop will model strategies for using local resources and for incorporating "guests" and other "experts" into classes as a way to deepen inquiry and engagement.

Learn more 


The Civic Actor Studio at the University of Chicago

The Civic Actor Studio (CAS) at the University of Chicago is a three-month experience anchored by a four-day retreat that encourages local civic leaders to forge connections and examine the leadership roles they play through theater-based exercises. Launched in 2019 and led by the Office of Civic Engagement, in partnership with Court Theatre, the Civic Actor Studio experience aims to help participants engage in civic dialogue and practice the embodiment of civic leadership to strengthen self-efficacy in their community work.

To learn about Civic Actor Studio participants and facilitators, click here. For more information, contact Joanie Friedman joaniefriedman@uchicago.edu.

Poetry in Public

The Poetry in Public program engages students, faculty, staff, community members, and alumni in poetry.

Everyday Shakespeare is a monthly series focused on the sonnets of William Shakespeare with people gathering to read aloud and then discussing the poem and its meaning. This group meets the second Tuesday of the month during the academic year. 

Coffee with Langston is a monthly series focused on the poems of UChicago Laboratory Schools’ Poet/Lecturer-in-residence Langston Hughes with people gathering to read poems aloud and then discussing the poem and its meaning. This group meets the third Wednesday of the month during the academic year. 

If you’d like to get engaged, please click HERE to join the mailing list. 

The Chicago Leadership Development Exchange (CLDE)
The Chicago Leadership Development Exchange (CLDE) is a new platform for civic leaders to share information, knowledge and experiences to help them advance a more equitable and inclusive Chicago.  We meet quarterly via Zoom in January/April/July/October. To learn more about CLDE and join the community of practice, please contact Joanie Friedman joaniefriedman@uchicago.edu or Liz Jellema Liz.Jellema@chicagobooth.edu.


Directory of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Programs:

University of Illinois in Chicago's Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement, a member of the CLDE, has compiled an interactive directory: https://ipce.shinyapps.io/cldd/.  If you’d like to update the directory, you can contact Roy Rothschild, Research Specialist, at 312-355-4509 or rroths2@uic.edu.

Some of the organizations in CLDE include:

  • Disability Lead
  • Chicago Urban League IMPACT Leadership Development Program
  • The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Community Leadership Fellows
  • IL Muslim Civic Coalition
  • Multicultural Leadership Academy of the Latino Policy Forum
  • The Field Foundation’s Leaders for a New Chicago
  • Willie’s Warriors
  • Mujeres Latinas en Accion
  • Square One Foundation’s Civic Action Project
  • Obama Foundation
  • Surge Institute
  • University of Chicago: Office of Civic Engagement, Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, Civic Scholars, Civic Leadership Academy, Chicago Commons at the Divinity School, Civic Actor Studio, Advanced Leadership Program

Open Lectures for Residents
Open Lectures for Residents, in partnership with Cook County, offers seven weeks of curated educational content by University of Chicago faculty and staff in audio and video formats. Themes for each week of the content include: Racial Justice Movement, COVID-19, Humanities, Community and Education, Democracy and Citizenship, Science and Discovery, and Law and Policy. Additionally, Career Development webinars, originally developed for UChicago students, will be available. 

The following are other civic leadership programs at UChicago


Civic Leadership Academy
In 2015 the Office of Civic Engagement created the Civic Leadership Academy, an interdisciplinary leadership development program for emerging and high-potential leaders in nonprofit organizations and local government agencies within the City of Chicago and Cook County. Developed in partnership local government, LISC Chicago and the Civic Consulting Alliance, the program is designed to create a pipeline of talented leaders to help nonprofits and government agencies thrive. The program demonstrates the University’s commitment to harnessing faculty and civic practitioners to benefit high-potential civic leaders in the city of Chicago. The Harris School of Public Policy and UChicago's Center for Effective Government steward this University-wide program.

Obama Scholars
The Obama Foundation Scholars Program features a graduate degree tailored for promising international leaders – the Master of Arts degree in International Development and Policy (MAIDP) – offered by the world-renowned University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. 

International Innovation Corps: U.S. Applied Data and Governance Fellowship
In recent years, data-driven analysis has become an essential part of policy development. While governments are increasingly investing in data analysis capabilities, there remains a significant gap between data analysis and actual policy implementation. The IIC aims to provide a bridge between data and policy through a new one-year U.S. based fellowship in applied data and governance.


Civic Scholars Program
The Civic Scholars Program, part of Booth's Weekend MBA Program, is a highly selective program designed for impact-driven professionals who work in a 501(c) designated nonprofit organization or for the government. This program offers full-tuition scholarships funded by a gift from the Neubauer Family Foundation to qualifying professionals from across the US.

Harry L Davis Center for Leadership
Harry L Davis Center for Leadership is an incubator and proving ground for generating new insights about leadership that impact education, practice, and discovery for future generations of students.

Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation
The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation is Chicago Booth’s destination for people tackling complex social and environmental problems. Its leadership blends academic expertise with real-world experience at nonprofits, for-profit businesses, and in government. That mix is required, as the lines separating these institutions are blurring—with for-profits adopting social missions, and nonprofits recognizing that business skills are needed to scale their efforts.


Divinity School: Chicago Commons Project
The Chicago Commons Project engages early-career Chicago-area clergy in an intensive program of leadership development, cultivating resilience, stamina and wisdom for the challenging work of religious leadership. The project identifies talented young ministers at a pivotal stage in their careers, gathering them into ecumenically, theologically and racially diverse peer cohorts who participate in a two-year program of intensive theological and civic reflection, featuring meaningful conversations with influential civic leaders and engagement with some of our city’s generators of artistic and cultural expression.

The Data Science for Social Good Fellowship 
The Data Science for Social Good Fellowship is a University of Chicago summer program to train aspiring data scientists to work on data mining, machine learning, big data, and data science projects with social impact. Working closely with governments and nonprofits, fellows take on real-world problems in education, health, energy, public safety, transportation, economic development, and international development.

Institute of Politics: Leaders of Color
Leaders of Color aims to increase the participation of minority students in leadership opportunities across the UChicago campus. Explicitly targeted towards first and second year students of color, the program seeks to prepare students with the skills to achieve internships and leadership positions on campus and beyond. 

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