Gesser aims to use the skills he’s gaining through the joint MBA/MPP program to integrate data-driven policy in private sector tech decisions.
Headshot of Mathias Gesser
Mathias Gesser

Mathias Gesser chose to pursue a joint MBA/MPP degree to learn how economic principles and incentive schemes can be used to develop better policy solutions. “I want to use economic fundamentals to create broadscale change,” Gesser said. “Economic principles and incentive systems are at the core of how I think about creating impact.”

Gesser earned his bachelor’s in business administration in 2015 from Washington University in St. Louis. “I started to think about the impact I wanted to have after I graduated and realized I could best achieve that impact through public policy.”

In 2016, Gesser became a Special Assistant to then-mayoral candidate of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson. “It was my first chance to engage with constituents, and that really humbled me to learn about what impacts citizens on a daily basis and what they expect from their city.” Krewson went on to become the first female mayor of St. Louis.

The following year, Gesser began working as a Senior Research Assistant at Keybridge, a public policy and economic consulting firm. “My portfolio mostly dealt with federal agencies. I worked a lot with FEMA, using behavioral economics to figure out how to incentivize homeowners to minimize flood damage.” Gesser conducted randomized control trials (RCTs) and utilized unsupervised machine learning techniques to optimize federal marketing campaigns and improve program effectiveness.

“Graduate school was always firmly in my mind, and the onset of the COVID pandemic motivated me to take the leap,” Gesser said. A graduate degree in policy, he said, would help him better understand how communities were reacting to this unprecedented event. “I was particularly attracted to Chicago as a city because of the opportunity to work in the Mayor’s office—which luckily I got to do. As an MBA mayoral intern, I worked on COVID recovery in the department of Economic & Neighborhood Development.”

Each element of his joint degree plays an important role for Gesser. “The policy degree is helping me solidify the quantitative skills I picked up in passing through my work at Keybridge. I never truly learned how these techniques work, so the courses in statistics and program evaluation have been great for that. The MBA is teaching me about things I haven’t thought much about before, specifically in terms of management and leadership. The MPP/MBA community at UChicago pushes me to think about the world in different ways.”

In addition to his coursework, Gesser served as Board President of Harris Community Action, an organization that connects policy students with nonprofits on the South Side of Chicago. “It has been the most energizing thing I’ve done in the past year. It helped me get back to the human element of policy. I’ve been able to engage with other changemakers who have been doing this for 5, 10, sometimes 15 years.”

This summer, Gesser interned at Microsoft for the Experiences and Devices Strategy team. “I’ve been very focused on how I can enact change through the private sector, especially within tech. How do we provide organizations tools to help build generational wealth? How do we ensure democratic security? I think tech holds the keys to these problems, but we need to consider the policy implications of technological advancement. I’m most interested in how policy can be integrated into these tech decisions.”