Illinois Toni Irving From GetIN Chicago: One Woman’s Mission

Born in Philadelphia, Toni Irving has been an Illinois resident since 2000, which makes her an official Chicagoan by sheer will alone. The fact is, having Toni Irving in Illinois has proved to be unquestionably beneficial for the state – especially when it comes to Chicago’s at-risk youth and the poverty-stricken areas from which they come. Toni Irving, Ph.D., is Executive Director of GetIN Chicago , an innovative public/private partnership that seeks to strengthen communities such as these. GetIN Chicago invests in programs focused on vulnerable youth by uniting organizations to employ and leverage initiatives to make Chicago communities safer and improve the quality of life for everyone living within these neighborhoods. 

So, what makes Toni Irving tick? “I am interested in the way practices, policies, representations and experiences shape and complicate an individual’s relationship to society and opportunity. I believe that all Chicagoans should have equal access to entitlement-” says Toni, “I believe that when good people work together we can bridge the gap between evidence based practices and the healthier lives and safer neighborhoods that our young people deserve. I am grateful to be in a position to focus on solutions and help manifest these goals in real time. People should not be reduced to their conditions, it should not be that because of the neighborhood you’re born in your life outcomes are always predicted.” Dr. Irving has been the recipient to numerous awards and accolades, including The MacArthur Foundation’s “Champion for Change” and Michigan Avenue Magazine’s Women of Influence.

Before becoming the Executive Director of GetIN Chicago, Toni Irving was Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn where she oversaw policy and planning, personnel, legislative and operations issues for public safety and human services agencies with combined budgets of $8 billion. As Senior Advisor, she advised the Illinois governor on minority business and workforce development issues and on developing and executing strategies to assist communities hardest hit by poverty and violence. This work included launching the nationally recognized Put Illinois to Work program a 27,000 transitional jobs program developed with Stimulus funds.

What does Toni Irving do for fun? “I love the outdoors. Chicago has the most beautiful lake front trails where I ride my bike. I am also a huge fan of Chicago museums and theater. I have been so inspired by the work coming out of Steppenwolf –they bring new ways of thinking about everyone from Lorraine Hansberry to Chekhov.”  

A past member of the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, Toni Irving conducted research and taught on law, literature, and social policy. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia, Master of Arts degree from the University of Kent at Canterbury, England, and Ph.D. from New York University.  This was the beginning of Toni Irving’s mission that eventually led her to Chicago, where she became a member of the Juvenile Justice Leadership Council, the executive committee of the Juvenile Justice Commission and The Economic Club of Chicago. Irving is also the former co-chair of the Illinois Poverty Elimination Commission and the Human Services Commission.

What does the future hold for Toni Irving? “I have always felt that it was my duty to try to make a difference in the world,” says Toni, “and I also think it’s very important to be present and make a difference in the lives of people closest to me: my family, my close friends. At the end of the day, those are the people that we walk through life with. How we love and show up for them is really the greatest gift we can give future generations.”

Would you like to learn more about Toni Irving and her mission at GetIN Chicago and beyond? Visit her website: