Civic Leadership Education at the University of Chicago

How an Urban Research University Invested in a Program for Civic Leaders that Resulted in a Positive Impact for both the Civic Leaders and the Faculty, Staff and Students of the Institution Itself


  • Joanie Friedman University of Chicago


civic leaders, Chicago, Civic Leadership Academy, non-profit, government, leadership development, civic engagement, equity, civic infrastructure


The University of Chicago (UChicago), known for transformative education, created the Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) to address the need for leadership development in government and the non-profit sector. In 2014 the Office of Civic Engagement recognized that while there were a host of leadership development opportunities for individuals in the private sector, similar opportunities for nonprofit and local government employees were lacking. The program begins by investing in fellows’ leadership capacity, so that in turn, their organizations are better able to carry out their missions. After three years of research and co-creation with foundations, corporations, individuals and groups, an original design, structure and curriculum emerged. The curriculum is rigorous and analytical, drawing upon the expertise of the faculty and the experiences of established civic leaders in Chicago. Action skills help individuals use their knowledge to achieve desired outcomes, and involve elements of communication, negotiation, persuasion, motivating others, and teamwork.

Author Biography

Joanie Friedman, University of Chicago

As Executive Director of Civic Leadership for the Office of Civic Engagement, Joanie is responsible for advancing the knowledge, teaching, and practice of civic leadership locally, nationally, and globally to increase civic trust and strengthen cities. Working across the University, she raises the visibility of programs and partnerships that strengthen the civic sector via civic leadership. In 2015, Joanie launched the Civic Leadership Academy, an interdisciplinary leadership development program for nonprofit and government leaders who study with practitioners and faculty from Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, Chicago Booth School of Business, University of Chicago Law School, the School of Social Service Administration, and the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies. Prior to working with the Office of Civic Engagement, Joanie led the Southside Arts & Humanities Network of the Civic Knowledge Project, which connected the cultural resources of the surrounding community with the resources of the University. Joanie holds a B.A. in History from Brown University and an M.A. in Social and Cultural Foundations in Education from DePaul University.

Joanie Friedman
Executive Director of Civic Leadership
Office of Civic Engagement
Edward H. Levi Hall
University of Chicago
5801 South Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
Telephone: 773-702-1035
Email: joaniefriedman@(UChicago).edu