Political gains

State rep. Kevin Olickal balances service with law school

Kevin Olickal, a student in the Weekend JD program, spends his weekdays in Springfield, Illinois, as the state representative for the 16th district. Olickal grew up in that community, which encompasses Skokie, Lincolnwood, and West Ridge.

The son of immigrants from India, Olickal considered attending medical school, but a civically engaged uncle spurred his interest in politics. “We were a new community in America,” Olickal says. “We wanted to make sure that our elected officials knew who we were, so that when issues came up, we had people to reach out to.”

Here, Olickal discusses the overlaps in his dual identities as law student and politician.

You ran for state representative in 2020 but lost that race. How did you manage your disappointment? 

One, I’m very lucky to have wonderful family and friends. Two, enrolling at Loyola was actually very helpful in getting over the loss. It helped me remember that I don’t need to be an elected official to make a difference in the world. I can be a public defender; I can find other opportunities to do good work in public service.

That’s a mature perspective. Nonetheless, you ran again in 2022, and you won. That must have felt amazing!

I can’t believe I get to do this every day. It’s a privilege and an honor. The issues that are particularly important to me are workforce development, criminal justice reform, and health care. When we passed the Warehouse Worker Protection Act in the House, I was taking a negotiations class at Loyola, and almost everything we talked about in class came up in our real-life negotiations.

That happens a lot, where being a law student informs my role as a representative and vice versa. I’m always thinking, “How can I cater my curriculum to better serve me in Springfield?”

“The issues that are particularly important to me are workforce development, criminal justice reform, and health care.”

Which classes are on your list?

I want to take family law and employment law because of the labor-related work I’m doing. I’d like to take something related to administrative law. I’m constantly inspired by the professors at Loyola. The faculty and the culture—it can’t be replicated. The way the professors talk about the work they’re doing and the kind of work we can do out in the world reaffirmed my commitment to public service. –Kelsey Schagemann (June 2023)


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