Shake-up at Robert R. McCormick Foundation

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A shake-up at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation will see a longtime program director’s role reduced to senior advisor, and two senior program officers jobs eliminated.

The changes, according to President and CEO David Hiller, reflect a shift in programming that will combine the foundation’s two areas of journalism and civics under one democracy umbrella.

Clark Bell, longtime director of McCormick’s lauded, 20-year-old journalism program, is to become a senior advisor and retire at the end of 2015. Bell had previously planned to retire as program director, a job he has held since 2005, Hiller said.

“We’ve had programs in journalism, civics and civic education, and were looking at how can we be more impactful in the work that we do, including by working outside traditional program boundaries,” he said.

“Our colleagues in our civics and journalism programs worked for months taking a hard look at how, working together, we could have more impact on how well our democracy works, how well the government responds, and how engaged citizens are. The insight at the end of that is that we should not only work together but put those two areas together.”

John Sirek, currently director of the foundation’s civics program, will head the new umbrella, with Bell serving him in an advisory capacity on journalism issues.

“Clark has led the journalism work for the last several years very well,” Hiller said.

Under the change, Mark Hallett, senior program officer under Bell, and Andrea Jett Fletcher, senior program officer under Sirek — who have served the foundation a combined 30 years — will both depart the foundation.

“They’re great colleagues who have contributed very much, and they are going to stay good friends and stay close to the foundation,” Hiller said.

The changes grew out of the foundation’s “Democracy Center,” a joint project of its Journalism and Civics programs that was successful but spotlighted areas of overlap.

Surviving the consolidation into the single program are two civics program staff — Shawn Healy, currently resident scholar and director of professional development, and Janice Belzowski, professional development coordinator — along with a program officer in the Journalism Program, Jennifer Choi.

Courtney Brouwer, who had been assistant director of school programs and resources in the civics program, has been reassigned to work on special projects for Senior Vice President for Philanthropy Don Cooke.

“We will be bringing together all of our work in journalism and civics, civic engagement and good government,” Hiller said. “Our belief is that if we keep our eye on that big picture — what are the kinds of things that support a well-functioning Democracy — and think of it holistically in that way, we can do a better job for our community.”

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