Hill aspires to serve as Mayor of his hometown of Washington, DC.
Headshot of Johnathan Hill
Johnathan Hill

“It was an honor and also very nerve racking to introduce the then-Secretary of Education,” Hill said. “It was also Father’s Day, and when the principal introduced me, he noted the personal significance of that day for me: I had lost my father to gun violence when I was nine. Couple those emotions with needing to give a big speech, reflecting on all that my mom has done, and thinking about my family and extended support system, and obviously the tears drop. Nonetheless, I composed myself and got up there and said to Arne, “I want your job one day. Not only are we all excited to meet you, but you should be very excited to meet us: we are your future.’ He embraced me after my speech, gave me his business card, and I figured that was the end of that.”

However, Hill decided to reach out to Duncan a few months before he was accepted at Morehouse College, and it was then that Duncan suggested he apply for an internship with the Department of Education. Hill applied, and in the summer of 2014 interned with the Office of Communications and Outreach to support projects that touched youth from across the country and often allowed them to engage with education policy-makers. “Since then, we've always kept in touch,” said Hill.

After graduating from Morehouse, Hill secured a role with LinkedIn’s Global Leadership Program. “It was amazing working for one of the largest tech companies on the globe with a mission to connect people to opportunity,” said Hill, “but I also was very interested in community impact and how to get more Black and Brown people into technology. I started leading different strategic social initiatives to help dismantle the network divide and eventually co-lead our Black Employee Resource Group in the Chicago office.”

After three years at LinkedIn, Hill accepted a role as Community Engagement Lead with Relativity, a legal software firm. There, he leads the Justice for Change program, empowering legal organizations tackling social and racial justice issues by providing their software to help organize complex data, search documents, and discover the truth to act. Hill also helps lead the Fellows Program, which creates opportunities in the Chicagoland area by certifying and placing people from untapped communities in the e-discovery and technology fields.

 Seeking to further broaden his impact and pursue his lifelong dream of becoming Mayor of Washington DC, Hill spoke with several of his mentors but noted “it was the conversation with Arne that compelled me to take action. Arne and I bonded over a people-centric approach to policy—one that captures what people care most about and is grounded in moral principles. In a time where policy is being driven by data, we can’t forget about the stories of communities we are supposed to serve. The numbers are important, but the story matters even more. And he recommended UChicago as an institution that has done incredible work storytelling with data,” Hill said. “I want to be that person who can tell stories with numbers, and Arne Duncan definitely helped me understand that Harris needed to be a part of that.”

When asked how Harris would align with Hill's professional goals, former Secretary of Education Duncan said he "considered studying at Harris a life-transforming opportunity for Johnathan. The combination of wonderful classes, and smart, engaged peers is an amazing environment where he can thrive. Johnathan has not had an easy life, but everything he has gone through has made him smarter, tougher, and more determined to help others.”

Hill subsequently enrolled in the Evening Master’s Program (EMP). “I don't have the luxury of quitting my job to go back to school, so choosing the EMP was both a family decision and one I'm making for my community to better serve them: that's ultimately what I’m at Harris to do. We need more policy-makers armed with the knowledge, skill, and resolve to address these complex issues with an innovative and compassionate approach. We do this by putting people first and leveraging the data to shape a government taxpayers deserve.”

One year into the program, Hill says he has gained quantitative analysis skills to measure social impact initiatives and claim his seat at the table. "I want to ensure that every person can say, ‘I have somebody like me fighting for me’.”