March 15, 2019

SIU Carbondale will host student summit aimed at helping revive, rebuild Illinois

CARBONDALE, Ill – University students from around the state will come to Southern Illinois University Carbondale later this month with the goal of developing strategies to revive and rebuild Illinois.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is hosting “Renewing Illinois Summit: Ambitious Dreams and Practical Steps to Revive the Prairie State” on March 28-29. Limited registration remains, and organizers anticipate about 35 professors and students will participate in the conference at the Student Center.

Media Advisory         

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the “Renewing Illinois Summit: Ambitious Dreams and Practical Steps to Revive the Prairie State” March 28-29 in the Student Center. For more information or to arrange for interviews, contact Cary Day at the Institute at or 618/453-4008.

Decisions ahead for state leaders

John T. Shaw, Institute director, said critical decisions are ahead for lawmakers with Illinois having a new governor and Democratic-controlled general assembly.

“Illinois is at a crossroads as a new administration takes power in Springfield and confronts a myriad of serious challenges. Policymakers must decide if they will tackle these problems or defer them to another day,” Shaw said.

Three primary areas of focus for students to consider will be:

  • The state budget.
  • The future of higher education in Illinois.
  • Illinois’ political climate and future.

Participants are receiving a 24-page report put together by longtime state government and political analyst James Nowlan and the Institute: “Renewing Illinois: From leader to laggard, and back again?” to review and use as a guide for the conference. The report discusses in detail the state’s issues and touches various topics including tax burdens, the state’s neglected transportation network, the history of political corruption and finding ways to fund higher education and stop student flight. 

Decided the time was now for ‘fresh ideas’

Shaw said Institute officials developed the plan for the summit as a way to engage students from throughout Illinois in generating fresh ideas for lawmakers and state officials to consider.

“Illinois is at a critical juncture in our history and policymakers are certain to receive plenty of ideas – and advice – from scholars, analysts and political operatives,” Shaw said. “At the Institute, we think it’s important for our leaders to also hear from an important group that is often overlooked: the young people who will decisively shape Illinois’s future. “

After the summit, a report highlighting the main conclusions and recommendations will go to Gov. J.B. Pritzker and leaders of the Illinois General Assembly.

“The Institute is eager to bring together students from across Illinois to consider ideas to renew and rebuild Illinois,” Shaw said. “We are determined to stimulate vigorous discussion and generate constructive proposals. The Institute is convinced this summit can provide a constructive platform for university students in Illinois to generate fresh and important ideas to revitalize our state.”

Schedule includes variety of speakers

The summit will include keynote addresses from several people who provide insight and perspective into the state’s situation. The schedule includes:

  • March 28 – 5 p.m., Sam Wheeler, Illinois state historian, will place Illinois’ current challenges into a historical perspective.
  • March 29 – 8:30 a.m., James Nowlan will discuss Illinois’ current political and economic challenges.
  • March 29 – 12:30 p.m., Erika Harold, a Champaign attorney who was the state’s Republican nominee for attorney general in 2018. She will reflect on her experiences on the campaign trail and offer her views on what Illinois voters are asking of their public officials.

Illinois universities sending delegations to the summit

Eight universities and colleges in Illinois are sending delegations and Shaw said there might be additional Illinois delegations attending. Students and faculty are coming from:

  • SIU Carbondale
  • Eastern Illinois University.
  • Illinois State University.
  • Illinois Wesleyan University.
  • McKendree University.
  • Northern Illinois University.
  • Western Illinois University.
  • Wheaton College.

The event is part of the Institute’s Renewing Illinois Initiative, which examines ways to improve public policy in Illinois.

For more information on this event or other Institute programs, visit or call 618/453-4009.