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Public Policy Institute attracts, develops the best and brightest

Lauren Connor, first Alexander Lane internship award recipient 

By Jeff Wilson

Lauren Connor’s experience at SIU was enhanced by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

The recipient of the first Alexander Lane internship award, she spent much of her time as an undergraduate working with members of the Illinois House of Representatives. She helped write speeches and create press releases.

“It was great,” Lauren says. “I got to dive head-deep into the law-making process and see how the political process works.”

Politics wasn’t her main focus at SIU. In 2013, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theater with a minor in political science. Still, her experience with the institute guided her toward a bright future.

She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern. The graduate program she chose, Leadership for Creative Enterprises, was suggested to her by Linda Baker, a professor with the Simon Institute.

“Linda was a big help,” Lauren says. “Everyone at the institute has been very supportive. I still keep up with them.”

Professionally, Lauren spent time working on community projects and with charities in Chicago. Now, she’s preparing for a new role in New York City. She’s beginning as a full-time researcher with Ark Media, which is producing a documentary for the PBS series “NOVA.”

She credits SIU and the Public Policy Institute for encouraging her to expand her horizons.

“SIU gives you a great opportunity to explore multiple interests,” she says. “The university does a great job of paying attention to its students.

“The institute does a great job of cultivating diverse talent. The really want to see more women in government, particularly more black women. It’s really great to see they care about you.”

By supporting the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, donors open more doors to Alexander Lane interns and Latino Heritage Legislative interns and help fund undergraduate scholarships.

To learn more about the institute, visit To learn more about its fundraising goals, visit