A Vote for Advocacy
Audra Wilson ’94 takes the helm at voter-empowerment group
by Amelia Thomson-Deveaux

In spring 2003, Audra Wilson ’94 found herself sitting across from Barack Obama at a Mexican restaurant on Chicago’s west side. State Sen. Obama was on the verge of launching his bid for an open U.S. Senate seat, and he was offering Wilson a job.

“I was floored because I had only set up the meeting to talk about how I could volunteer,” Wilson recalls. But Obama had already called Wilson’s boss at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, where she was an attorney focusing on food security issues. She gladly accepted Obama’s offer, eventually becoming deputy press and policy director for his campaign.

Headshot Audra Wilson
Photo: WBEZ
Audra Wilson ’94 users her political experience to advocate for voter engagement in Illinois.

It was a turning point for Wilson, who loves the thrill of politics, but also relishes examining intricate details of laws and policies to determine what they mean for ordinary people. She recently became executive director of the League of Women Voters of Illinois, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to civic education and engagement. The role draws on her political experience, most recently as deputy chief of staff for an Illinois congresswoman, and her public policy expertise, honed while teaching U.S. welfare policy at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.

People started asking if Wilson wants to run for office. But she says working for an organization like the League of Women Voters feels more fulfilling than embarking on another political campaign. Empowering voters at all levels of government — from local to national — and advocating for sound, research-based laws and policies holds more appeal.

“Politics is a roller coaster,” says the Bucknell international relations and Spanish major. “It was incredible to see my work affirmed when Barack became president, to know I played a part in that,” she says. “But all of my work is really about giving people a voice and the ability to participate fully in our political system.”