Laura Farr represents NU interests to government officials as new director of state, local relations

Laura Farr, the University’s new director of state and local relations. Farr said she’s responsible for closely monitoring legislative issues important to Northwestern.

Courtesy: Laura Farr

Laura Farr, the University’s new director of state and local relations. Farr said she’s responsible for closely monitoring legislative issues important to Northwestern.

Cadence Quaranta, Reporter

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Northwestern’s Office of Government Relations, a department tasked with promoting the University’s legislative priorities, named Laura Farr the new director of state and local relations on Jan. 1. Since then, she has been fulfilling her new role by keeping in contact with officials about issues concerning the Northwestern community.

Bruce Layton, the special assistant to the president for government relations, said the office is responsible for maintaining the University’s day-to-day relations with legislative officials at all levels of government.

For her position, though, Farr focuses on state- and local-level communication.

“There are always going to issues that affect the public, that affect Northwestern, and we want to be sure that our voice is being heard,” Farr said.

Farr said she communicates directly with Springfield legislators, as well as representatives within the governor’s office. She said she’s currently focused on the issues Gov. J.B. Pritzker mentioned in his 2019 budget address and is “excited to see” how his plans pan out in the legislature.

Layton said while hundreds of bills are introduced to the Illinois General Assembly every session, University interests lie primarily in issues like student aid and research.

“We want to make sure that people have access to the best quality education they can have,” Farr said. “If they’ve chosen Northwestern to get that education, we want to make sure we do everything that we can to give them a good experience.”

Farr said the University is also concerned with legislation regarding Title IX, adding that she’s focused on addressing state-level issues directly pertaining to Northwestern students’ well-being.

Title IX, which bars gender discrimination in federally-funded schools and activities, has been the subject of controversy in recent months after the U.S. Education Department proposed changes to the law. Both students and administrators have expressed concern over how those changes would affect the University’s Title IX process and protections for survivors.

Farr said she is also hoping to make use of University expertise and research to provide guidance to local and state officials.

“We’re looking for opportunities to be helpful at the state level and any areas where we can provide our extensive expertise — especially the areas where our professors have done research,” Farr said.

Before being appointed, Farr served as the state legislative affairs manager for Chicago Public Schools.

Layton said the expertise Farr acquired from her previous work served as an important factor in the Office of Government Relations’ decision.

Jennifer Kunde, the executive director of government relations, said Farr was by far the “best-qualified candidate for the job.” She said before Farr’s appointment, the position had been vacant for four months.

Farr said she’s glad to be doing the important work of representing NU’s priorities in her new role.

“It’s a privilege to be able to stay in contact with your government,” Farr said. “I’m really fortunate to be able to do that on Northwestern’s behalf.”

Email: cadencequaranta2022@u.northwestern.edu

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