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Harris is all about improving lives through practical policy solutions... Just as AmeriCorps members seek to get things done, so too do Harris students.
— Ryan Higgins, MPP '17

About Ryan:

Before coming to Harris, Ryan received his Bachelors degree at Vanderbilt University with a major in Public Policy Studies and an emphasis on education policy.  While there, he was active in the Vanderbilt Political Review, Alternative Spring Break, Tour Guides, and at the Dismas House of Nashville, a halfway house where he led weekly dinners for three years and served on the nonprofit's Board of Directors. Ryan also spent a semester studying development economics in Dakar, Senegal, and a month teaching English and French in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Ryan’s policy interests include education policy, urban policy, and housing.

In his own words:

The Harris School is all about improving lives through practical policy solutions. Our education focuses not on crafting theoretical, ideal policy, but rather on understanding political systems so to be a savvy actor achieving policy improvement. Our coursework makes sure that we can understand the situation at hand, and also that we can find opportunities to better policy for our fellow citizens. Just as AmeriCorps members seek to get things done, so too do Harris students.

Moreover, a central piece of my AmeriCorps experience was the feelings of community we had, all working together, sharing ideas, stories, and best practices. The Harris School also focuses on a strong sense of community, connecting a diverse group of classmates into a cohesive network of strong relationships. The strong Harris community has been my favorite part of my graduate school experience, as I have so many classmates and friends from around the world from whose experiences I get to learn.  

In the future, I am looking to find a job that allows me to connect the analytical skills learned at Harris with the actual hands on work of my AmeriCorps experience to improve educational equity and opportunity for students in the US. In particular, I want to advocate for better opportunities for young men. As a teacher, I saw many of my male students disciplined for just having a lot of energy, suspended at high rates.  I seek to make sure that we are limiting our use of suspension to cases when it is absolutely necessary, and that we are also creating active classrooms where energetic students can immerse themselves in their learning, and not be confined to a desk and a worksheet.

By far, one of the most valuable parts of my MPP degree was getting to be part of such an amazingly talented and driven community, and I’m lucky to be able to enter into such a strong alumni network.
— Marianne "Shehara" Waas, MPP '16

About Shehara:

Shehara is a June 2016 MPP graduate of Harris, where she developed her skills and interests in environmental policy, with a focus on food policy and GIS analysis. She received her bachelor's degree in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan, and served as an Environmental Consultant at the national government level with FEMA prior to her graduate career. While at Harris, Shehara served as a Staff Writer for the Chicago Policy Review’s Energy & Environment team, and a Food Policy member of Harris’ Community Action Bureau, jointly with the non-profit Advocates for Urban Agriculture. Since the summer of 2015, she has worked as a Research Associate for the Fresh Taste philanthropy network: a group of 12 Chicago-area foundations working to improve food access and equity in Chicagoland and beyond. Her research to determine the most effective Midwest policies supporting the local food system has grounded her desire to work for Chicago-area regional planning organizations in the future.

In her own words:

In my experience, AmeriCorps’ various service programs target those that want to understand how collective action and genuine public interest can make an impact. Harris and the MPP program attracts these very same people. Myself and others in my cohort are all concerned with using our various skills and innovative approaches to make big changes in policy; here at Harris, I believe that AmeriCorps alumni/alumna can find a community of people with common goals and ideals.

I served as an AmeriCorps NCCC service member from 2013-2014, with the FEMA Corps program. During my ten months of service, I worked as an Environmental Consultant for FEMA’s Office of Environmental and Historic Preservation. In this role, I provided technical assistance to local emergency management offices to help them meet environmental compliance requirements in Hurricane Sandy rebuilding projects. This position took me to multiple FEMA Regional Offices and cities--including Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Baltimore--and was a formative experience in my development as a policy practitioner. While honing my research, data analysis, and stakeholder engagement skills, I was able to see how sound policy and management were critical for FEMA operation.