The Department of Politics and Government hosted Torrence Gardner ’13 on Alumni Day 2021.

Gardner graduated magna cum laude from Illinois State University in 2013 with a political science degree. Following graduation he spent some time in Ecuador before moving to St Louis, where he served with AmeriCorps at an American Red Cross chapter. While serving with AmeriCorps, his work focused on disaster preparedness and disaster services.

Gardner then moved back to the Chicago area, and after a few years living and working there he began a master’s program in urban, community, and regional planning at the University of Illinois Chicago and completed his degree in 2020. He is currently the director of Economic and Community Development for the 49th Ward in Chicago. In that role, he drafted and advocated for the historic Juneteenth legislation that made Juneteenth a paid holiday in Chicago, and he also formed one of the first COVID-19 community response teams in the nation.

On Alumni Day, Gardner met with Professor T.Y. Wang, chair of the Department of Politics and Government and attended the Alumni Day luncheon. In addition, he met with students enrolled in graduate programs in applied community and economic development (ACED) in different departments, including four ACED students in the Department of Politics and Government. Gardner had a lively, informal discussion with ACED students about his career path and the challenges and rewards of working in the field of community and economic development. In answering students’ questions, he shared many examples of the various projects he has worked on as a community developer. He also offered some advice for starting a career in community and economic development.