History of Chicago Harris

Established in 1988, the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy emerged from an interdepartmental Committee on Public Policy Studies. Chicago Harris, one of six professional schools at the University of Chicago, is part of a world-class intellectual community that continues the University's tradition of scholarship to address real-world problems.

As University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Eric Isaacs have said, “The Harris School of Public Policy embodies many of the values that make the University of Chicago distinct. The school’s interdisciplinary and data-driven approach to policy analysis reflects the University’s culture of rigorous inquiry, and faculty and student engagement with the City of Chicago and other urban centers demonstrates the impact of research on societal challenges in education, crime, energy and other fields. These efforts draw scholars and practitioners to campus to exchange ideas and learn.”

Starting with just five PhD students and 36 Master’s students in 1988, the school has grown to have class sizes of over 170 Master’s students, in varying programs from the Master’s in Public Policy, to Computational Analysis and Public Policy, Environmental Science and Policy, and more.

From its inception, Chicago Harris has sought to enhance the University's role in shaping and understanding public life by conducting policy-relevant research and preparing talented individuals to become leaders and agents of social change.

The University of Chicago Tradition

The University of Chicago is one of the world's preeminent research universities. It is home to internationally renowned scholars, researchers, and intellectual pioneers. In the last century, the University produced more than 80 Nobel laureates in fields of study that include medicine, economics and physics—including eight current faculty members.

Founded in 1890 with a gift from John D. Rockefeller, the University embodies the vision of its first president, William Rainey Harper, a pioneer in education who believed in the strengths of an institution that blends an American-style liberal arts college and a German-style graduate research institute.

Harper articulated his hope and vision for the University at the very first faculty meeting in 1892, saying: “The question before us is how to become one in spirit, not necessarily in opinion.” UChicago fulfilled Harper’s dream, quickly becoming a national leader in higher education and research: an institution of scholars unafraid to cross boundaries, share ideas, and ask difficult questions.

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A Dynamic Setting

Located in Chicago's Hyde Park community, Chicago Harris and the University of Chicago are just seven miles from the heart of the city on Lake Michigan's south shore. In addition to being the home of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, Hyde Park is known for its excellent bookstores, its variety of restaurants and cultural events, and for its celebrated architectural landmarks, museums and parks. Downtown Chicago and other city neighborhoods are easily accessible from campus by car or by public transportation.

Chicago is an education in itself. It is the birthplace of community organizing. It is a center of international finance and trade. It is also home to numerous national and international foundations, policy research centers, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses.

In the Loop, the heart of downtown Chicago, key decisions are made affecting the welfare and economic health of people worldwide. One of the world's great cities, with a world-renowned symphony and arts community, a spectacular waterfront, a rich architectural heritage, and an unparalleled selection of restaurants and vibrant neighborhood culture, Chicago is a dynamic training ground for public policy. It is a blend of big city and small town, tradition and innovation, history and progress. Chicago offers endless options for discovery.