Spotlight: University of Chicago
November 25, 2013 08:45 AM
Established in 1988, the Harris School of Public Policy is one of six professional schools at the University of Chicago. The school offers five master’s degree programs, several joint-degree programs with other schools and departments on campus and at other institutions, and a doctoral program. It has more than 30 full-time faculty members, including two Nobel Prize laureates, who are recognized around the globe for their breadth and depth of expertise. This year’s entering class is comprised of more than 170 students, representing approximately 30 countries, with an average age of 27. Students are diverse in terms of background and areas of interest, but they all possess the outstanding quantitative skills needed for Chicago Harris’ rigorous curriculum. Moreover, students share a bedrock commitment to making an impact in the world.
“On a day-to-day basis—in Chicago, in my district, in committee, on the floor, analyzing policy—the skill set I got here is what I use the most,” Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley, an alumnus, recently told a group of Chicago Harris students.
All students are required to take a year-long core curriculum providing a multidisciplinary foundation in policy analysis. Electives deepen students’ quantitative and critical thinking skills in areas such as economics, statistics, decision theory, political economy and organizational theory. Students are also encouraged to develop areas of expertise and acquire real-world training through coursework at Chicago Harris and other schools at the University, as well as through internships, practica and independent research projects.
Roughly one-third of Chicago Harris graduates pursue careers in the nonprofit sector, one-third in the public sector and one-third in the private sector. Regardless of their career path, graduating students are ready not only to be outstanding policy analysts but to lead policy change.
The past few years have been particularly dynamic at Chicago Harris. The number of applications has grown dramatically—a 46 percent increase between 2011 and 2013—while the already high academic quality of applicants has been improving even further. The average GRE quantitative score for this year’s entering class is over 750.
Perhaps part of the reason for the increasing interest in Chicago Harris is that the school has been devoting significant resources to improving its leadership in a number of areas:
At Chicago Harris, classroom study is only half of the equation. Students have ample opportunities to apply their skills through real-world projects and close interaction with top policy practitioners. A mentorship program enables students to gain insight and experience through one-on-one relationships with policy professionals. Students also participate in a range of policy-related internships and practica. In recent years, to take one of many examples, students have partnered with the city of Gary, Indiana, to develop and implement a major urban revitalization effort.
The links between the classroom and the world of professional policymaking are further strengthened through the school’s relationships with an expanding corps of policy practitioners who have achieved the highest degree of success in their respective fields. These include policy leaders such as former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and former Senior Presidential Advisor David Axelrod, among others. In addition, the school brings in a steady stream of experts, scholars, government officials, corporate leaders, advocates, and other policy makers, ensuring that Chicago Harris remains a lively hub for discussion and debate on the most pressing public policy issues of the day.
From its inception, Chicago Harris has encouraged students to take advantage of the school’s strong ties to the City of Chicago. In recent years, the school has sharpened its focus on urban policy to help prepare students for leadership positions in urban centers. Chicago is teeming with opportunities and challenges unique to metropolitan areas, and students have opportunities to explore the city as a laboratory and testing ground through research projects, internships and community partnerships. Those interested in developing urban policy expertise can take new classes and participate in new programs focusing on urban issues and challenges. For example, they can enroll in a new cutting-edge Municipal Finance Certificate Program and take elective courses taught by veteran urban leaders such as former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, former presidential advisor on urban issues Derek Douglas and long-time Cook County Clerk David Orr. Centers such as the Municipal Finance Institute and the Crime Lab foster new research relevant to metropolitan areas around the world. Initiatives such as the Brownsville, Texas, practicum—a hands-on experience in a major urban redevelopment project—give students ground-level exposure to urban policymaking. In addition, Chicago Harris and the City of Chicago have partnered to cosponsor the Urban Technology Innovators Conference, which creates a peer-learning network for municipal technology leaders, and the Municipal CFO Forum, an annual conference that brings together top municipal finance professionals from the nation’s 30 largest cities.
Computational Analysis and Public Policy
Public policy decisions can be enhanced through the use of computational analysis. But there is a significant lack of personnel with the skills to analyze data in a way that can help inform public policy decisions. To fill this gap, Chicago Harris and the University of Chicago Department of Computer Science recently created an innovative cross-disciplinary master’s degree program to equip future policy leaders with the applied statistical analysis and computation skills necessary to devise creative, data-driven solutions to societal challenges. Chicago Harris also encourages students to develop computational analysis skills outside the classroom by hosting events like the Urban Technology Innovators Conference and the Data Science for Social Good Fellowship. Senior Fellows Brett Goldstein, formerly chief data and information officer for the City of Chicago, and Rayid Ghani, the chief data scientist for Obama for America’s data analytics team, are pioneering efforts to leverage “big data” to improve public policy and government services, positioning Chicago Harris as a leader in this emerging field.
Chicago Harris recently established the Center for Policy Entrepreneurship, a unique initiative focused on the politics of the policymaking process. The goal is to immerse students in the realities of policymaking. The innovative curriculum includes a “cluster” of three courses: one taught by an academic scholar, one taught by a policy practitioner and a practicum that exposes students to real-world challenges. Coursework is paired with a guest speaker series, a visiting fellows program and funded, full-time summer internships in policymaking environments. Recent and upcoming speakers at the Policy Entrepreneurship Forum include former North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue, former Indiana Governor and Senator Evan Bayh, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, Princeton University professor Nolan McCarty and Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley.
Preeminent Scholars and Educators
Chicago Harris faculty are world-renowned scholars who are helping to advance our understanding of today’s most pressing social issues through evidence-based analysis. Working on local, national and international policy in arenas as diverse as education, labor markets, terrorism and the environment, they share a strong sense of civic purpose. Faculty bring to the classroom the same level of passion as they do to their research, creating a rich learning environment that demands excellence from every student.
Kerwin Charles is the Edwin and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor at Chicago Harris and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research focuses on a range of subjects in the broad area of applied microeconomics. His work has examined such questions as how mandated minimum marriage ages affect young people’s marriage and migration behavior, the effect of racial composition of neighborhoods on the social connections people make, and the causes for the dramatic convergence in completed schooling between recent generations of American men and women. Recent work has explored the degree to which prejudice can account for wages and employment differences by race and gender, and he is studying the connection between economic outcomes and various aspects of voting behavior.
Ethan Bueno de Mesquita
Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, professor and deputy dean, is an applied game theorist whose research focuses on political violence—especially terrorism and insurgency—and on democratic accountability. His current research on political violence focuses on tactical choice by rebel groups, and he is part of a team of scholars working to assemble the most comprehensive data set ever collected on political violence in Pakistan. He is also concerned with more foundational questions regarding the nature of representation and accountability in democratic systems. Before coming to Chicago Harris, he taught in the department of political science at Washington University in St. Louis and was a Lady Davis Fellow in political science and visiting fellow in the Center for the Study of Rationality at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research and the United States Institute of Peace. Bueno de Mesquita received his BA in political science from the University of Chicago and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Harvard.
James Heckman was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2000 for his development of theory and methods for analyzing selective samples and the evaluation of public policy. Much of his work focuses on the impact of different social programs and the methodologies used to measure those program’s effects. Heckman has researched areas such as education, job training programs, minimum wage legislation, women’s work and earnings, child care effects, anti-discrimination laws, civil rights and early childhood interventions. He directs Chicago Harris’s Center for Social Program Evaluation. He has received numerous awards and honors, and he serves as a fellow and elected member at a number of prominent associations and institutes.
William Howell has written widely on separation-of-powers issues and American political institutions, especially the presidency. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including (with Saul Jackman and Jon Rogowski) The Wartime President: Executive Influence and the Nationalizing Politics of Threat (University of Chicago Press, 2013) and (with David Brent) Thinking about the Presidency: The Primacy of Power (Princeton University Press, 2013). His current research is exploring Obama’s education initiatives, distributive politics, and the normative foundations of executive power. Before coming to Chicago Harris, Howell taught in the government department at Harvard University and the political science department at the University of Wisconsin.
Ariel Kalil is a developmental psychologist who studies how economic conditions and parents’ socioeconomic status affect child development and parental behavior. She directs the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy and teaches several courses at Chicago Harris. Her recent projects have examined the relationship between parental education and time with children, the effects of the Great Recession on parental behavior and child development, and the association between income inequality and children’s educational attainment. Kalil has received the William T. Grant Foundation Faculty Scholars Award, the Changing Faces of America's Children Young Scholars Award from the Foundation for Child Development, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, and in 2003 she was the first-ever recipient of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Award for Early Research Contributions. Her current work is funded by NICHD and by the MacArthur and Russell Sage Foundations.
Colm O’Muircheartaigh is dean and a professor at Chicago Harris whose research encompasses survey sample design, measurement errors in surveys, cognitive aspects of question wording and latent variable models for nonresponse. He is a member of the Committee on National Statistics, a senior fellow in the National Opinion Research Center and principal investigator on the National Science Foundation’s Internet Panel Recruitment Survey. He is also the former president of the International Association of Survey Statisticians and an active member of a number of professional bodies, including the U.S. Census Bureau Federal Advisory Committee of Professional Associations (chair of the statistics subcommittee), the Royal Statistical Society, the American Statistical Association and the International Statistical Institute. He has served as a consultant to a wide range of public and commercial organizations in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, and the Netherlands. He joined the Chicago Harris faculty in 1998 from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he was the first director of the Methodology Institute and a faculty member of the Department of Statistics since 1971.
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Harris School of Public Policy
1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637