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The Inaugural Class of The Edgar Fellows Program: Bipartisan and Cross-Regional Cooperation

Nearly 40 up and coming leaders from across Illinois spent four days in Urbana-Champaign in August at the inagural session of the Edgar Fellows Program.

Developed by IGPA Distinguished Fellow and former Governor Jim Edgar and Rick Winkel, director of the IGPA Office of Public Leadership, the program is designed to foster understanding, cooperation and friendship across Illinois' varied geographical, ethnic and cultural landscape.

The program featured presentations by such leaders as former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Ed Rust, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of State Farm Mutual, Senator Christine Radogno, Minority Leader of the Illinois State Senate, and U of I President Robert Easter. Fellows also spent time with IGPA faculty members Fred Giertz, David Merriman and Cedric Herring in sessions about the economy, budget and demographics of Illinois.

"My hope is that these people have a great chance of moving up the ladder, and someday one of them might be governor of the state of Illinois, one might be mayor of the city of Chicago," Edgar said. "I think it would be great if they knew each other for many years, and knew how to work with each other.”

The fellows attended sessions on many topics throughout an intensive four days. Many sessions featured discussion about policy issues such as the Illinois fiscal situation, criminal justice, organizational diversity, and the effects of healthcare reform. Professional growth opportunities were also part of the program, such as a time management seminar and a panel on interacting with the media. And many prominent Illinois leaders delivered candid keynote presentations on cooperation, bipartisanship, and the challenges and rewards of leadership.

Beyond classroom engagement, the fellows also took a tour of Grace Brothers Farm in Urbana, explored the University of Illinois Research Park, and played a tough round of Illinois Trivia. Governor Edgar said the goal of the program is to foster long-term relationships among a diverse group of current and future leaders in Illinois.

The inaugural class of Edgar Fellows included elected and appointed officials from all levels of government – including Democratic and Republican legislators from the Chicago metropolitan area and downstate, mayors and members of county boards and city councils.

The Edgar Fellows initiative is advised by a committee comprised of a diverse group of distinguished leaders from the public and private sectors. The committee helped select the inaugural class of Edgar Fellows from a group of more than 200 nominations.

The program is offered by IGPA’s Office of Public Leadership and is funded primarily with donations from a diverse group of individuals, organizations and companies interested in promoting competent and well-motivated leadership in Illinois.

For a full slideshow of photographs from the event, visit our Flickr site here.