The Future of Harris Is Here

CHICAGO -- September 30, 2015 -- Today marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Dennis and Connie Keller and the family of King Harris, who together donated $32.5 million to support the school in 2014, renovations have officially begun on the Keller Center, Harris’s future home.

The facility, an adaptive reuse of the building at 1307 East 60th Street, is an important component of a broader vision for Harris. Our distinct approach to policy education and scholarship—with its emphasis on rigorous science, data analysis, and real-world engagement in Chicago and beyond—plays a vital role in addressing the social challenges we face today. Preparing for challenges we see coming, and those we cannot yet predict, the new design will give faculty, students and visitors a more dynamic space for teaching, research and events, while allowing room for substantial growth in faculty and student enrollment.

“The University of Chicago brings a distinctive set of analytic strengths to public policy scholarship, education and innovation in policy practice,” said President Robert J. Zimmer when the University first announced the gift in November 2014. “These generous gifts by Dennis Keller and the Harris family will add to the scope and impact of that scholarship and education, enhancing the Harris School of Public Policy’s roles as a center of rigorous policy analysis, education of the next generation of public policy leaders, and an intellectual destination for scholars and policymakers and practitioners from around the world.”

The potential that the Keller Center will help Harris realize was on display today at “The Future of Harris,” a celebratory event including a faculty panel on new directions in policy research and the increasing need for better data and more innovative analytical tools to inform and improve evidence-based policymaking. 

“Since our founding more than 25 years ago, Harris has been a place for people with the courage to find and face the facts, take risks, and question the easy answers,” said Kerwin Charles, Interim Dean and Edwin and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor. “As we look to the future, the Keller Center will enable us build on this legacy and further our mission of developing leaders who put evidence first—whether they go on to the public, private or non-profit sector.”

To better reflect this point of view, Harris also unveiled an updated visual identity in a video that concluded the event. The identity, which shares the University of Chicago’s primary maroon and modern typeface, signifies Harris’s rooting in the University’s intellectual culture and commitment to rigorous inquiry, depicted by the maroon “C” that grounds the name of the school. The graph-like sections that make up the “C” symbolize Harris’s belief that data-driven analysis is the best guide to public policy, articulated in the school’s theme line, “Social Impact, Down to a Science.”

“We believe our distinctive point of view on public policy is more needed than ever,” said Viki Conner, Associate Dean for Communications and Marketing. “At a time when trust in institutions is fragile, Harris has an opportunity to shift the narrative on public policy from an ideology, rooted in politics and experience, to a science, rooted in data and social impact.”

The new identity will become more visible in the weeks and months ahead. In addition to launching a redesigned website later this academic year, Harris will host a new series of events that, like today’s, explore the frontiers of data-driven policymaking.

Harris was founded in 1988 as the Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, with a core endowment from Irving B. Harris, for whom the school was renamed in 1990.