Mentor Program

Unique among top-tier policy schools, Chicago Harris has offered a Mentor Program ever since the School’s inception more than twenty-five years ago. Thanks to this far-sighted initiative, the brainchild of Irving Harris, thousands of students have been mentored by policy professionals.

Our mentors have included elected officials, CEOs, executive directors, policy advocates, and many other professionals who freely give their time and insight to the important task of nurturing our next generation of policy leaders.

Harris mentors call on their experience to help students connect academic training with practical opportunities and to navigate the transition to professional careers. Many mentors are Harris alums.

We are excited to announce that in the fall of 2015 Chicago Harris will be launching an improved and restructured version of this seminal program. The innovative new program will introduce a multi-level structure that will serve more students, facilitate meaningful connections between students and mentors, utilize the expertise of our talented mentors and alumni, and ensure that all Harris master’s students can participate in the program.

Program Structure

The new mentor program will serve master’s students over their entire enrollment. The new, dynamic structure connects students with multiple mentors who have different experiences, skills, and perspectives. The program draws on the benefits of near-peer and traditional mentoring, and engages Harris’s exceptional community of alumni, employers, instructors, and friends. Students will build a powerful professional network, benefit from professionally relevant programming, and get encouragement and support from both mentors and classmates.

Year 1

In their first year, students in 2-year master’s programs (M.P.P., M.S.E.S.P., M.S.C.A.P.P.) will be assigned to small affinity groups by career interest. Each affinity group will be led by two early- to mid-career policy professionals (First Mentors). Each affinity group will also have a Senior Mentor, who will provide mentoring and guidance to the First Mentors and to students in the groups.

Programming for the first year will focus on early career preparation, adjustment to graduate school, connecting the curriculum to its professional applications, and professionalism development.  Programming will include facilitated dialogues around career development, team-building and social events, and topical programming tailored to students’ areas of professional interest. Some events will be just for the small affinity group and others will be for multiple groups or the larger community.

Although events will be structured for the entire group, students and mentors (both First and Senior) are allowed and encouraged to interact with one another outside of the context of the group. Ideally, students and mentors will form individual relationships as well, and students will be able to reach out to their first year mentors for networking and support in their second year and beyond.


Year 2

In their second year (or in the last year, for MA and joint degree students), students are matched one-on-one with a mentor. Mentors and mentees are matched on the basis of career interests, geographic location, employment sector, goals, and personality.

Through the advice, experience, and insight of their mentors, students are better able to channel their aspirations and interests into definable career goals and to begin building a professional network. Mentors find the program to be a rewarding opportunity to meet young professionals in their field, and to assist in their professional growth.

Mentors will be drawn from across the US and internationally. Mentors come from a wide variety of career sectors. Mentors need not be Harris alumni, though many are.

Although much of the interaction between mentors and mentees is driven by the pair themselves, programming is offered throughout the year to give mentors and mentees a chance to interact around shared interests.

Apply to Participate in the Mentor Program

  • 2nd Year and Returning Student Application: 2016-17 application will open soon
  • 1st Year Student Application: 2016-17 application will open June 13
  • Mentor Application and Profile

Volunteer to Serve as a Mentor

Chicago Harris is seeking new mentors. If you are interested in serving as a mentor or becoming involved with the program in other ways you can find more information here or contact Kate Shannon Biddle, Senior Associate Director of Student Affairs, at to learn more.

Mentor Program Steering Committee

The Mentor Program Steering Committee is comprised of mentors, students, and Harris staff. The Steering Committee will assist with mentor/mentee matching, event planning and facilitation, and help to guide the overall direction and strategy of the Mentor Program. Inquiries about the Steering Committee can be directed to Kate Shannon Biddle at