May 7, 2015


Christopher Z. Mooney is director of the Institute for Government and Public Affairs.
Campuses Collaborate on Public Policy Think-Tank
By Susan S. Stevens

ASK THE EXPERTS is a simplified way to explain the role of the Institute for Government and Public Affairs.

“BASICALLY, we are the University of Illinois’ public policy think-tank, focusing on the State of Illinois,” said Christopher Z. Mooney, director of the institute as well as a nationally recognized expert on comparative state politics and government. The “top-notch” social science faculty transfers its knowledge to the problems of the State.

“OUR MISSION is to inject nonpartisan evidence-based information into the public policy conversation in Illinois,” Mooney said. The Institute works with everyone from the general public to policymakers.

JIM EDGAR, former governor, is one of the experts. Many of the experts are members of the U of I faculties at Chicago, Urbana-Champaign, and Springfield. “The faculty has a lot of knowledge, as well as skills, about various aspects of the world that are relevant to public policy in the State,” Mooney said. Three Academic Professionals and six Civil Service employees assist the researchers.

“THEY LOOK at evaluating public policies that are going to help protect Illinois’ health and economic welfare,” said Kelsey Kapolnek, coordinator of communications and media at the Institute.

AMONG THE PROJECTS being examined:
  • State budget process, looking at best practices and attempting to warn policymakers “you’ve got to watch out,” Mooney said. “They have created an economic model that is able to project State spending and revenue under different economic policies,” Kapolnek said.
  • Early childhood education, trying to bring cutting-edge knowledge to child-care centers.
  • Disparities of education and housing based on race, searching for what causes it.
  • Climate change, and its current and future impact on Illinois.
  • Health economics, examining health, insurance, and cost-effectiveness.

“WE DO NOT advocate for any particular issue,” Kapolnek said. “We are nonpartisan, and we are looking at the issues from an academic perspective.”

THE ROLE of the institute is “part of the land-grant mission” with the University “giving back to the State that supports it,” Mooney said.

APAC MEMBERS and members of the general public who are interested in any of the topics can view more information on the website or ask for position papers, Mooney said. “We are a public service unit, so we are interested in helping everybody.” The website is

KAPOLNEK CAN point questioners to the experts. She can be reached at or (312) 996-8854.

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