It’s the end of an era for the Center for the Study of Education Policy (CSEP). Co-directors Erika Hunt, M.S. ‘00 and Lisa Hood have collectively worked for the center for 36 years. While the vital work of CSEP is not going away, the two are moving on to new roles at the Regional Office of Education (ROE) #17 beginning on April 30. Having met during their doctoral programs, Hunt and Hood have enjoyed working together for more than 20 years, 17 of those at CSEP.

“We’re like sisters,” said Hunt. “We always knew we would do this together.” 

Through their work at CSEP, Hood and Hunt have been partnering with six ROEs around the state, working to build their capacity to develop educational leadership hubs. Recently, ROE #17 received a five-year $4 million federal grant, and the pair will help manage that grant and the ROE’s leadership hub, among other duties.

Hood and Hunt look forward to their new roles as an opportunity to be more directly connected to the field to affect change. Seeing the effects of the pandemic made them re-think their careers, and it seemed like the right time to pivot away from policy work and toward supporting school districts more directly. Both believe that this new leadership lab focus will allow them to connect their research and practice, and provide innovative solutions for all stakeholders.

Both Hood and Hunt look back fondly on their accomplishments while at CSEP.

“One of the areas I’m most proud of was being part of reforming principal preparation, changing the endorsement from K-12 to PreK-12,” said Hood. “From that, we were able to create a variety of tools and resources accessible on the one of a kind Teach Lead Grow website that principals could use and apply to their own schools.”

Hunt mentioned working on the 2014 Frank Newman Award winning principal preparation legislation as one her most memorable accomplishments.

“This was such a large-scale project working with ISBE and IBHE for five years, as well as hundreds of stakeholders across many different disciplines,” said Hunt. “It has been cited in several publications and has led to Illinois being seen as a national model. With so many still committed to the work, it really shows how it is meeting a need.”

They emphasized how the strong support they had at all levels of the College of Education, as well as the family-like atmosphere in CSEP played a major role in the success of their work. In addition, the reputation of Illinois State University in the field of education had a big impact on their efforts.

According to Hood, “There’s no question that ISU’s name and reputation definitely opened some doors during any education meeting we were in.”

“ISU has always been seen as a pioneer in policy and is well respected on the state and national landscape in education,” Hunt added. “It makes it easier to push the envelope in our work when our home college and institution supports that work and it’s aligned with their mission and values.”