Our Board

Paula Wolff

Director, Illinois Justice Project

Paula Wolff, PhD, is Director of the Illinois Justice Project, a civic organization developing and implementing policy initiatives and programs to reform the criminal justice system by addressing youth trauma and reducing youth and adult violence, crime and incarceration.  From 2000 until the creation of the Illinois Justice Project in 2014, she was Senior Executive at Chicago Metropolis 2020 and Metropolis Strategies where she led the Justice and Violence Group, the predecessor to the Illinois Justice Project.

From 1992 to 2000, Wolff served as President of Governors State University.  During her tenure at GSU, the budget doubled and enrollment grew by 22 percent to more than 9,000 students on the campus in Chicago’s south suburbs. From 1977 to 1991, Wolff served as Director of Policy and Planning for Governor James R. Thompson.  She directed development and implementation of policy for all areas of state government, serving with her staff as liaison to 57 state agencies.  She also worked for Governor Richard B. Ogilvie from 1969 to 1971. In 1990-91, she directed Governor Jim Edgar’s Transition Team, as she had participated in Governor James R. Thompson’s in 1976-77. In 2014-15, she co-chaired Governor Bruce Rauner’s Public Safety Transition Policy Committee.

Wolff is Vice President of the Chicago Police Board and serves on numerous other boards including the Johnson Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Ariel Investments Board, the Metropolitan Planning Council, the University of Chicago Medical Center Board and the University of Chicago Board of Trustees.  Wolff is the former chair of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Board and the City Colleges of Chicago Board.

Wolff has a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a master’s and doctorate in political science from the University of Chicago. She is married to Wayne W. Whalen, a lawyer, and has five children.