The incoming class is the largest and most diverse in the school’s history across its Master’s and Ph.D. programs.

Today, the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy officially welcomes its largest and most diverse incoming class in the school’s history across its Master’s and Ph.D. programs. Reflecting Harris’ belief that effective public policy problem-solving requires the involvement and understanding of diverse viewpoints, experiences, and traditions, this year’s incoming class is comprised of 21 percent from underrepresented minority groups among the U.S. population and approximately 50 percent international students, hailing from 37 different countries.

Katherine Baicker, dean and Emmett Dedmon Professor at Harris Public Policy

“We should be proud – both individually and collectively – of what an incredibly resilient community we have proven to be,” said Katherine Baicker, dean and Emmett Dedmon Professor at Harris, in an email welcoming student, staff, and faculty to the official start of the 2021-2022 academic year. “Despite myriad challenges, Harris stood tall over the past year and is poised to advance our mission further thanks to the ingenuity, tenacity, and unwavering spirit of our community.”

After a year and a half of mostly remote classes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of students have returned to the Keller Center this academic year, making possible the spontaneous collaboration that is essential to advancing progress against urgent policy challenges and that the state-of-the-art building was designed to facilitate.

The incoming future policy leaders were immersed in Harris’ hallmark rigor from the start, beginning with Math & Coding Camp in August and preparing them for the first classes in the Core, Harris’ exacting first-year curriculum of analytical politics, economics, and statistics. Their arrival also brought an introduction to Harris’ enriching experiences and traditions. Orientation activities began with the Welcome Address on August 30, featuring a keynote address from Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride. An advocate for the LGBTQ community and for expanded healthcare access, McBride is the first openly transgender person elected to a U.S. state senate.

She stressed the opportunity for change and need for urgency brought about by the pandemic, creating, she said, “a moment of re-imagination.” 

“It is a massive undertaking to develop the kinds of bold solutions that meet the scope and the scale of the challenges we face and that meet that historic opportunity and responsibility to reimagine our world,” McBride said. “I’m incredibly hopeful that we have what it takes to do that. I believe this rising generation of policymakers – that is so clearly reflected in the diversity of the incoming students at the Harris School – is uniquely positioned to meet these challenges.”

Kate Shannon Biddle, dean of students at Harris Public Policy

Kate Shannon Biddle, Harris’ dean of students, said McBride’s talk was a fitting start as the Class of 2023 joins Harris’ diverse community of scholars. “These incoming students are world-changers determined to make an impact,” she said, “and Senator McBride really lit a fire about the power of social change.” 

The power of social change stayed front and center throughout Welcome Week, which kicked off Sept. 19. This year’s Aims of Public Policy Address, which gets students thinking about the broader aspects of their education before diving into their studies, featured Steven Durlauf, the Steans Professor in Educational Policy at Harris. In his address, Durlauf used the “Great Gatsby Curve,” which looks at links between a nation’s income inequality and intergenerational economic mobility, to demonstrate how data can be the first step to making a real-world impact.

As part of community-building activities tied to the Common Read, Isabel Wilkerson, author of this year’s selection, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, spoke to students on Sept. 22. The Common Read, a book shared with incoming students before their arrival each year, is part of Harris’ commitment to diversity and inclusion. The book explores the unseen and often highly destructive American hierarchy that goes beyond the confines of race, class, gender, and other factors that have proven so successful at dividing us.

Michelle Hoereth, assistant dean of diversity and inclusion at Harris Public Policy

“Hailed as a modern classic, Caste by Isabel Wilkerson explains the ways in which invisible boundaries influence society – especially in the United States – as a whole, based on characteristics as random and innocuous as skin color,” said Michelle Hoereth, assistant dean of diversity and inclusion at Harris. “It is our hope that by exploring and confronting these very real issues, it will underscore the importance of representation, diversity, and inclusion in the policy space and help foster a stronger, more committed Harris community.”

This newest class includes students enrolled in full- and part-time degree programs, including Harris’s flagship degree program, the Master of Public Policy (MPP), as well as the Master of Arts in Public Policy (MA), Master of Arts in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM), the Master of Science in Computational Analysis & Public Policy (MSCAPP) program, and the PhD program. Harris also offers a part time Master of Arts in Public Policy degree, designed to accommodate the demands of personal, family, and work that are unique to mid-career professionals, located in downtown Chicago.

The Class of 2023 is gathering after a busy summer at Harris, which included the introduction of a newly redesigned University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars Program, in collaboration with the Chicago Booth School of Business, the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, and the Obama Foundation. Among the 12 members of the current cohort of University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars Program are four second-year students from Harris, who will engage with partners on the South Side of Chicago, and apply those experiences in communities in Chicago and across the globe.

Ranjan Daniels, senior associate dean for student recruitment and global outreach at Harris Public Policy

“The Class of 2023 begins their Harris journey as the world remains gripped by COVID-19 and its variants, escalating economic and social inequality, the impacts of climate change, and conflict around the world,” said Ranjan Daniels, senior associate dean for student recruitment and global outreach at Harris. “Buoyed by their sense of justice and commitment to impact, Harris students have the talent and drive that, when coupled with the analytical toolkit they learn here, makes them capable of addressing these and other urgent challenges facing societies around the world.”

Harris’ power as a springboard to making an impact and successful careers in policy was further borne out in the fifth annual Career Outcomes Report, issued on April 12. Despite the pandemic-driven economic downturn and a delayed recruiting season, the report found strong post-graduation employment data for the Class of 2020.

Of the 370 graduates who responded to the survey in the Career Outcomes Report, 94 percent of them had found employment. Graduates found jobs across sectors, with forty-one percent accepting private sector jobs, 24 percent finding work in the public sector, and 35 percent going to work in the nonprofit sector. Healthcare, economics and fiscal, education, and social impact ranked as the most common areas for graduates working in a policy-related field.

Harris, the second-largest professional degree program at the University of Chicago, serves as the academic home for the University’s Civic Leadership Academy (part of the Center for Effective Government at Harris), the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts, and the University of Chicago’s five Urban Labs, making the school a hub for the next generation of leaders eager to make a direct impact on policy. Among the 58 Harris faculty members are experts who study child and family policy, development economics, energy policy, urban policy, political science, poverty and economic inequality, and more. 

Want to learn more?

Applications for the 2022-2023 admissions cycle are now open, and prospective students can learn more about degree and non-degree programs, including information on upcoming deadlines, by visiting