Manager, Deloitte Consulting
Political economy degree from Georgetown University
What about your experience at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy was as you expected and what surprised you?
Harris delivered on its promise to be academically rigorous and heavily focused on the development of quantitative and policy analysis skills. Clearly, I had access to amazing professors; you don’t take classes with Noble Prize winners every day. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned from, and enjoyed working with, my fellow Harris students. I met and became friends with people who worked in the Obama White House, served in Teach for America, or were international students from Latin America who had held impressive positions in their home countries.
You talk about the value of your peers. Do you stay connected to your fellow Harris graduates?
Definitely. There is a group of several of us who exchange messages through a whatsapp group frequently. A lot of them are in Chicago, some in Boston. I just visited Mexico City in August and stayed with a classmate. I actually ended up at a birthday party with ten Harris alumni! It’s a great network.
What is your current role and how did Harris help prepare you for it?
I’m the director of capital planning for the state of Massachusetts. I work directly on issues of public policy—where I always hoped Harris would take me. My role involves receiving funding requests from agencies ranging from Transportation to Housing and helping decide how resources should be allocated from the capital budget to competing priorities. My Harris training in statistics, in-depth policy analysis, and the understanding of the trade-offs in public policy, informs my work.
Being at Harris helped me develop my career direction, especially being involved with internships in Chicago. There is so much access to interesting opportunities in state and local politics. You are right where the action happens. It’s a big city with a lot of policy issues.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It’s fun to be involved in major decisions. I have worked in research jobs and think tanks, but actually being involved in policy decisions— handling capital dollars for education infrastructure, the environment, housing, and economic development, as well as responding to developing issues—is really rewarding.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the $20 Billion 5-year capital budget process I helped manage last year.
Are there particular faculty members who impacted you most?
I took a class with Kerwin Charles before be became the Interim Dean of the Harris School. I followed his research before I matriculated at Harris, so that was a pretty cool experience. I also recommend Professor Berry’s class on urban economics to all incoming students. Professor Grogger’s program evaluation course taught me to have a healthy skepticism of policy and understand the potential unintended drawbacks of policy ideas. Managing a budget inherently involves trading off different policy areas against each other, so it’s useful having the concepts of costs versus benefits, utility of the marginal dollar, and the potential pitfalls of policy ideas in the back of my mind (even though I haven’t drawn a supply-demand chart or booted up STATA since Harris)! While I enjoyed the academic courses, practitioner-taught classes on public budgeting and municipal bonds, as well as a practicum working with the Cook County budget office, taught me skills that translate most directly to my current role.
Did you enjoy living in Chicago?
I loved Chicago. The city was one of the main reasons I chose Harris.
Chicago is an affordable city, particularly in comparison to some of the other big policy school cities like DC or New York City. Depending on your interests, you can live in whatever neighborhood you want. I lived in Humboldt Park and was involved in a rugby club. I commuted easily to Hyde Park, and enjoyed the offerings of a big city like Chicago, as well as the lectures and events at UChicago.
There is a new presidential administration. How do you think that might factor into decision-making for those seeking public policy degrees?
One of my recent assignments was to try and make sense of what the Trump administration is planning for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Like most states, healthcare is a huge budget driver in Massachusetts. We rely heavily on federal funding for Medicaid. It’s a concern. Understanding the impact of potential changes Washington could impose on the states and cities is a place where policy experts are going to be needed. I think we are going to find out just how much public policy matters as federal policy becomes more uncertain.
If you were speaking to a potential Harris student, what would you want them to know?
The quality of the teaching and the academic rigor at Harris is impressive. You will work hard, learn a lot, and be able to take advantage of the many internship opportunities throughout Chicago. That experience and skillset is something you can sell to anybody. Harris really will give you the tools to be successful. The rest is up to you.