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While much of the attention in Washington, D.C. this week revolved around the Senate hearing with former FBI Director James Comey, there were relevant budget hearings. This edition also features the University of Illinois System's recent engagement activities with legislators, both in D.C. and in Illinois.

Republicans & Democrats Push Back on Proposed ED Cuts

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Humans Services, and Education on the administration's fiscal year 2018 budget for the Department of Education. The chairman of the subcommittee, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), opened the hearing stating that the department's budget request is difficult to defend and that proposed cuts (totaling $9.2 billion, a 13 percent reduction) are "likely untenable."

Rep. Krishnamoorthi Keynotes Science Coalition Breakfast

At the invitation of the U of I System, Northern Illinois University and Northwestern University, Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi spoke at a “Headliner Breakfast” for The Science Coalition (TSC). These are informal opportunities for TSC members to meet with an individual member of Congress to discuss mutual issues of interest related to science, technology and research. It also was a great opportunity to recognize Rep. Krishnamoorthi for his early support for federal funding for basic scientific research.

Before coming to Congress, Rep. Krishnamoorthi was the president of Sivananthan Laboratories, a high-tech business incubator founded by Dr. Siva Sivananthan, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). One of the companies that is part of Sivananthan Laboratories is EPIR Technologies, a spin-off that was featured in TSC's 2013 "Sparking Economic Growth" report.

Rep. Davis Engages Ag Startups and Corporations in the Research Park

Rep. Rodney Davis visited Urbana's Research Park to meet with ag/biotech corporations as well as startups in EnterpriseWorks, our business incubator. Rep. Davis serves as chairman of a subcommittee with jurisdiction over ag research and biotechnology.

Along with Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Rep. Davis recently announced the launch of a bipartisan Congressional Agriculture Research Caucus to educate and engage with their fellow members of Congress on the importance of agriculture research, innovation, and mechanization in preparation for the 2018 Farm Bill.

ACES Dean Kidwell Underscores Importance of Robust USDA Funding
Photo Credit: Rep. Bustos Office 

Kim Kidwell, dean of Urbana's College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, participated in a couple of events hosted by Representatives Cheri Bustos and Darin LaHood in Peoria last week. There was a tour and a press conference to discuss the impact that President Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would have locally, specifically on the Peoria region. There is a provision within the budget request that would shutter the Peoria Agriculture Research Lab — formally known as the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research. The focus for the facility, which is supported by the Agricultural Research Service, is on bioenergy, new uses for renewable resources, and safe, healthy foods.

During the press conference, Dean Kidwell provided a high-level perspective on the significance of having a strong USDA budget for our state and the nation, and communicated the value of the U of I’s partnership with the Peoria Agriculture Research Lab, particularly for economic development in central Illinois through bioprocessing synergies with the university and with industry partners.


The University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS) held its annual “Network & Learn” event with DC-area alumni and friends on June 8. This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Hilary Frost, who serves as the chair of global studies at UIS. UIS Chancellor Koch introduced Dr. Frost in addition to providing an update on the university's latest initiatives and priorities.

During her presentation, Dr. Frost discussed how UIS is internationalizing its curriculum. She talked about how international students add to the culture at UIS and how UIS is working to prepare its students for work in a globalized world.

UI Health on the Hill

Representatives from the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System (UI Health) were in DC for a meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Amy Sagen, UI Health's interim director of health policy and strategy, took the opportunity to introduce Emily Gibellina, UI Health's new director of government relations for healthcare, to Illinois congressional delegation offices and outline UI Health priorities.


U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos, who received her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Springfield, was featured in OGR's external e-newsletter last month. See below for her responses to some questions we posed.

What is your favorite memory from your time at the University of Illinois? My favorite memory from the University of Illinois was when I got my first page one story published. It was when I was an intern through the public affairs reporting program and today, I still keep in touch with my source from that story.

How did a University of Illinois education prepare you for your career/current role? There’s not a day that goes by where I’m not interacting with the media, doing interviews or asking questions. My time at the University of Illinois helped me understand what makes a good story and taught me how to tell a story by painting a picture with words. As both a reporter and a Member of Congress, I strive to not only understand how real people will be impacted by policy decisions, but also to tell those stories to shape the debate in a way that helps the people I’m so privileged to represent.

Give us your take on the state of higher education at the federal level. There’s no doubt we need to make higher education more affordable and accessible to students and their families. I’m working to make Pell Grants year-round so students can save money and graduate sooner. As a member of the Agriculture Committee, I’m also fighting for robust funding for agriculture research, which is why I’m deeply concerned by the cuts in President Trump’s budget.

  • Earlier this week, the White House announced the continuation of Dr. Francis Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • Read more on NIH’s efforts to enhance funding to early-stage and mid-career researchers through the "Next Generation Researchers Initiative."

Thank you,

OGR Federal Relations

Paul Weinberger and Melissa Haas