Non-Academic Institutions

The University offers an incredible variety of quality non-academic programs that allow students to escape pure academia.

By Marta Bakula

“Cloisters, ancient libraries…. I was confusing learning with the smell of cold stone,” reminisces the history teacher from playwright Alan Bennett’s acclaimed History Boys. It’s an easy mix-up to make: Amid all the ivory and cobblestones, one tends to forget that the University experience extends far beyond the walls of campus.

Do yourself a favor: wander out of the library and get involved with some of the non-academic programs that the University has to offer. Under the umbrella of Campus and Student Life, all three of these organizations seek to apply and create meaning from academia, outside of pure academia itself.

Founded in January 2012 by Barack Obama’s former adviser David Axelrod (A.B. ’76), the Institute of Politics (IOP) is the campus gateway to the world of all things politics, public policy, and public services.

Located at 5707 South Woodlawn Avenue, the IOP was created as a nonpartisan institute that seeks to broaden student interest in politics through three distinct programs: a speaker series, internship opportunities, and a fellows program.

In its speaker series, the Institute brings to campus a wide range of specialists, ranging from political officials to journalists, to discuss current events and issues. Last year, speakers included Sean Spicer, former White House press secretary, Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, and former White House deputy chief-of-staff, Karl Rove. This fall, guests include Obama administration alums and Pod Save America hosts Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, Jon Favreau, and Tommy Vietor; former Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch; and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

In addition to the speaker series, the IOP also offers students an opportunity to apply for a variety of internships related to politics, including some within the Institute. While some of these internships take place in the summer, there are also opportunities to intern throughout the academic year. In its first year, the IOP offered students 163 internships in various career fields and locations, ranging from CNN to the UChicago Crime Lab.

The third central pillar of the IOP is the fellows program. This program brings professionals to the University for a full academic quarter. Throughout their 10-week stay in Hyde Park, fellows hold weekly seminars for students, each focused on a certain political theme or issue. Fellows for the fall quarter include Karen Tumulty, Washington Post political correspondent; Jeff Roe, Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign manager; and Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina state representative.

The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA) is an organization that seeks to foster “intentionally diverse and inclusive communities” through special program emphasis on black, Asian-American, Latina/o, Native-American, and multiracial student experiences at the University.

The Office provides students with various academic and cultural resources, including grants, funding opportunities, and an in-house resource library. In addition, students can participate in a wide variety of programs specifically tailored to the multicultural community, including the Heritage Series of lectures, wherein speakers are invited to discuss intersectional issues.

The Office also oversees and helps to fund more than 40 multicultural recognized student organizations (RSOs) for both undergraduate and graduate students to participate in during their time at the University.

OMSA is located at 5710 South Woodlawn Avenue and alongside the Office of LGBTQ Student Life, which provides resources, mentoring, and events for students.

For students looking to go even further off campus, the University Community Service Center (UCSC) organizes volunteer programs in and outside of Hyde Park. The USCS, which was launched as a student-run organization in 1992, matches students with a myriad of volunteer and community immersion opportunities.

There is a diverse assortment of volunteer options for students, often tailored to one’s specific interests. These options include, but are not limited to, student-run groups, campus-wide days of service, internships at nonprofit organizations, and community-building programs. The UCSC also promotes a volunteer referral program that seeks to connect students to short-term and long-term volunteer opportunities throughout Chicago.

In addition to fostering individual volunteerism, the UCSC runs many community service–oriented programs. This includes programs such as Summer Links (a 10-week internship program at a host site over the summer quarter) and Chicago Bound (a weeklong pre-O-Week program that promotes community building and civic engagement to incoming students).

Since its inception, the Center has grown in size and mission. Former UCSC Director and former First Lady Michelle Obama was one of the principal drivers of this growth in the mid-1990s.

—Additional reporting by Annie Nazarro and Katie Akin