Arne Duncan Appointed Distinguished Senior Fellow at Harris Public Policy

Arne Duncan, who served as U.S. Secretary of Education and chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, has joined the University of Chicago as a distinguished senior fellow at the Harris School of Public Policy.

Duncan will participate in seminars, conferences and student-led initiatives at Harris Public Policy, bringing to the University his significant experience in education policy. His longstanding dedication to students and their families adds an important voice to work across the University to improve education through research, engagement with education practice and policy, and helping to train the next generation of education leaders.

“The University of Chicago is committed to bringing together scholars and practitioners to confront the challenges faced by educators in Chicago and cities around the world,” President Robert J. Zimmer said. “Arne Duncan, with his wealth of experience, brings important insights into the nation’s educational challenges, with a perspective informed by his understanding of Chicago’s South Side.”

Duncan also will serve as special advisor to the dean of Harris, helping to design, organize and host two events a year at the public policy school. In addition, he will provide advice to the dean in areas of public policy related to his expertise. The three-year appointment as a distinguished senior fellow took effect Jan. 1. 

“The University of Chicago and Harris are internationally recognized leaders in education and outcomes-focused research, which are passion points for me,” Duncan said. “I am pleased to join the UChicago community, with its outstanding reputation for debate and inquiry—it certainly played an important role in shaping my education as a child.”

Duncan has deep ties to Chicago and the University. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and his father, Starkey Duncan Jr., was a professor of psychology at the University. His mother, Sue Duncan, founded an after-school tutoring program on the South Side, which Arne Duncan credited with helping to inspire his career in education.

Before being appointed Secretary of Education in 2008, Duncan served for more than seven years as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools. 

Duncan stepped down as education secretary at the end of 2015. He serves as managing partner of Emerson Collective, leading a comprehensive effort to develop job skills and opportunities for young people in Chicago.

The appointment of Duncan complements the University’s ongoing work in education-related research areas across campus. These efforts include the work of the Urban Education Institute, Urban Labs, the Thirty Million Words Initiative and many more.

At Harris, scholars have focused since the school’s founding on improving the lives of children and their educational achievements, including the multiple factors that can affect a child’s educational outcomes, from parenting interventions and access to sanitation to student loan debt and early childhood programs. 

“Education policy has been an area of longstanding interest to Harris. The breadth and importance of his various activities in this policy sphere ensure that Arne’s addition to our community will help make Harris a preeminent place in the world for engagement with the various issues that make education at once among the most important and the most challenging of all policy areas,” said Kerwin Charles, interim dean at Harris and the Edwin and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor.

--Sarah Galer