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Congress Boosts DOE Funding in Final FY2019 Appropriations Bills

Congress sent a final Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 spending bill to the President this week which funds the departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs, the Army Corps of Engineers and the operations of Congress. The three-bill minibus ensures that at least some agencies will receive full FY2019 funding before the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1.

The bill provides DOE with a 3 percent funding increase. It boosts funding for all basic research and applied energy programs, including the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, with the largest increase for DOE’s Office of Science.

Congress Reaches Agreement on NIH, Pell Grant Increases, Along with CR

Separately, Congress also reached agreement on a final bill funding the Defense, Labor, Education and Health and Human Services (HHS) departments. The bill, which the Senate is expected to approve next week, includes a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health over FY2018 levels. It also includes a $100 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award, following a $175 boost in FY2018.

The DOD-HHS spending bill also includes a continuing resolution that extends government funding for other agencies until December 7. This will allow Congress to resume work on the remaining seven FY2019 appropriations bills when it returns for a lame-duck session after the elections.


On September 7, former President Barack Obama was awarded the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government from the U of I System’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA). This award is given to public officials who have dedicated their careers to the highest ideals of ethics, fair play and service to country.

During his visit to the Urbana-Champaign campus, President Obama addressed students from across the system at historic Foellinger Hall. Both Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Rodney Davis were in attendance at this event. In his remarks, President Obama spoke to the importance of education and how investments in institutions like the U of I helped create the 20th century economy that led America to unrivaled prosperity. The full speech can be viewed here.

President's 2018-2019 Leadership Program Storms DC

Last week, as part of the University of Illinois President's Executive Leadership Program (PELP), U of I Executive Vice President Barb Wilson led 16 high-level administrative and faculty leaders from across our three universities to Washington, D.C, for a two-day seminar. The seminar was organized by OGR Federal Relations in conjunction with the Office of the Executive Vice President/Vice President for Academic Affairs, and involved interactions with Congress, national associations and federal agencies, and engagement with DC-area alumni.


After an introductory presentation by OGR and our consulting firm Lewis-Burke Associates, the PELP fellows heard from two leaders in the higher ed community regarding strategies for effective university advocacy and issues affecting higher education around the country. The group first heard from American Council on Education (ACE) President, Dr. Peter Mitchell, about the state of higher education. They were then joined by the President of the Association of Land-Grant Universities (APLU), Peter McPherson, where the fellows learned about the initiatives APLU is leading to address challenges facing higher education.


That afternoon, the group transitioned to Capitol Hill for a series of sessions with members of Congress and congressional staff. Fellows heard from Rep. Rodney Davis, who discussed his federal priorities and perspectives in representing a district with one of the largest number of higher education institutions in Congress. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi outlined his priorities in serving on the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Rep. Cheri Bustos, a UIS alumna, reflected on how her experience at UIS has influenced her career path. The group also heard from House Science, Space, and Technology Committee staff about how Congress addresses oversight and legislative issues regarding the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and interagency R&D initiatives.


The next morning, PELP fellows traveled to the National Science Foundation (NSF). Fellows had meetings with senior officials, including Dr. Rebecca Keiser, who leads the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE), Dr. Jim Kurose, who leads the Directorate of Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE); and Arthur Lupia, who leads the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE). They heard about the agency's cross-cutting initiatives, including the 10 Big Ideas for Future Investment, and how universities can engage with NSF.


After NSF, the group had a session with Trent Frazier, executive director for the Office of Academic Engagement at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The final session was with Urbana alum Robert Kennedy, president and co-CEO of C-SPAN. Kennedy provided an update on this year’s midterm election and a quick tour of the C-SPAN studio.


This year's President's Executive Leadership Program fellows are: Jennifer Bernhard (Urbana), Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko (Urbana), Eileen Collins (Chicago), Mark Dochterman (Springfield), Geri Donenberg (Chicago), Janet Engle (Chicago), Danilo Erricolo (Chicago, University Senates Conference), Wayne Giles (Chicago), Stephanie Hilger (Urbana), Susan Martinis (Urbana), Robin Mermelstein (Chicago), Rhonda Perry (Springfield), Bob Smith (Springfield), Andy Suarez (Urbana), Marc VanOverbeke (Chicago), and Wanda Ward (Urbana).

In addition to Executive Vice President Wilson, others accompanying the group were Chief of Staff Laura Clower, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Sarah Zehr, Director of Federal Relations Paul Weinberger, Associate Director of Federal Relations Melissa Haas, and Federal Relations Specialist Emily Tuttle.

Urbana Associate Dean Speaks at Capitol Hill Panel Briefing on I-Corps
 Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Lipinski's office

At the invitation of Rep. Dan Lipinski, Dr. Andy Singer, associate dean for innovation and entrepreneurship within Urbana's College of Engineering, participated in a Congressional briefing on the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program. The program was created to help researchers identify valuable product opportunities and to gain the customer discovery and entrepreneurial skills needed to commercialize them. During the panel discussion, Dr. Singer provided a unique perspective on how I-CORPS brings products to market and supports academics as they attempt to commercialize research. He shared his experience founding a start-up with and without I-CORPS and how I-CORPS made starting a company much easier and helped de-risk the process. Teams supported by the Illinois I-Corps team have raised more than $50 million in venture capital and other outside funding and hired more than 130 employees.


Emily Tuttle has joined OGR full-time as the Federal Relations Specialist. She began with OGR in 2017 as the office’s inaugural student fellow and is excited to be permanently with the team. Prior to joining OGR, she was an intern for the U of I Alumni Association’s Illinois Connection program. She also interned on Capitol Hill with the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health and with Congressman Rodney Davis. At the state level, Emily interned with Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti and state Sen. Bill Brady. Emily has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in business administration, with a minor in political science.


Thank you,

OGR Federal Relations

Paul Weinberger, Melissa Haas, and Emily Tuttle