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Three WIU students, along with Department of Political Science Chair Keith Boeckelman, attended the Renewing Illinois Summit in March.
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WIU Students Attend Conference with Goal of Improving Illinois' Future

April 26, 2019

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MACOMB, IL – Three Western Illinois University students had the opportunity to attend the Renewing Illinois Summit, hosted in Carbondale, IL, by the Paul Simon Institute.

A total of 40 students, from nine Illinois universities, participated in the event, which asked them to make recommendations for improving Illinois' future. The WIU students who attended the event included Lexi Werle, a graduate student in political science from Marengo; Nashuba Hudson, a junior political science major from Chicago; and Kelly Rodgers, an MBA graduate student from Macomb.

A report on the students' findings is being finalized and will then be sent to the governor and other state officials. The report included findings on improving the attractiveness of higher education in Illinois.

The students from across the state represented many of the major divides in politics from across the country, geographic and political divisions between northern Illinois and downstate communities and divisions between rural and urban communities.

The students were accompanied at the conference by WIU Department of Political Science Chair Keith Boeckelman.

Boeckelman said the conference was a great opportunity for WIU students.

"One of Illinois' major problems in recent years is out-migration, including the departure of the next generation of leaders," he said. "I believe that this summit can provide a blueprint for reversing this trend by attending to the voices of young Illinoisians."

Werle said the experience allowed students from across the state to share their concerns and she learned that many of those concerns are the same.

"We all too often hear from our friends that they cannot wait until they can move out of Illinois, and we want to change that," said Werle. "This state can become a place where people want to be, but it will take a lot of effort. This is our state too, and we are ready to move it forward into something better than before."

Hudson said she was "grateful and honored" to represent WIU at the summit.

"I think it was a brilliant idea to bring future leaders together to meet and brainstorm on ways we can revive our state," she said. "As we discussed our state's budget crisis, our ways of governance, and most importantly higher education, students were able to compose the final report. We had great conversation with real substance, and I hope our thoughts are truly considered by the state leadership moving forward." 

Rodgers said she appreciated the conference as a way for students to voice their opinions on the direction the state is headed.

"Leading up to the summit, SIUC and Dr. Boeckelman provided us a variety of publications from which we could build our recommendations," she said. "The summit was over a period of two days - the second day was when we discussed policy and made our recommendations. We focused on three overarching topics: Governance, Budget and Higher Education. Out of the three, I preferred Governance and Budget the most, because of the discussions. Overall, the Renewing Illinois Summit was a wonderful experience and it is exciting to see others invested and as excited as I am about Illinois."

For more information about the WIU Department of Political Science, visit

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