The Orientation Staff members are returning Harris students who return to campus early to help make sure you're integrated into a community of future policy leaders. They are the backbone of the Day One experience and are here to foster community amongst the incoming class, advocate for your needs, and provide guidance on resources and policies you need to know to be a successful graduate student.


Geet Chalwa, MPP

Geet Chawla, MPP

Focus on International Development Policy

Hometown: India

Undergraduate Institution: Symbiosis International University

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

When I came to Harris as an international student, my orientation cohort and leader were one of the first group of friends that I made and I completely cherish that experience. I was excited to be a part of such an experience for the incoming cohort is why I want to serve as an OL. 

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

The city of Chicago has a lot to offer (apart from cold gloomy days) - the architecture, museums, food, culture, and the many beaches all in one city makes it unique.


Andres Fortunato, MPP

Andres Fortunato, MPP

Focus on International Development, Politics & Elections, and Crime Policy
        
Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Undergraduate Institution: Universidad de Buenos Aires

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

I have more than 7 years of experience in the public sector, but no formal education in public policy. I wanted to acquire the data skills and economics knowledge I need to improve my capacity of making my country a better place. 

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

My favorite class was Economic Development Policy, with Prof. Santos - visiting professor at Harris - It has been extremely useful and insightful. 

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

Because I want to give back some of the good guidance I received when I first came here. I also want to help build community between the different cohorts. 

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

Pay attention to what happens in the different neighbourhoods!

The best plans I've had were not in the loop. Also, explore Hyde Park, its a beautiful small town inside a big city.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I really enjoy reading, music and cooking - preferably outdoors - but what I enjoy the most is spending time with friends. 

What is one fun fact about you?

“I am not funny at all, very serious person.” 


Dylan Jacovo, MPP

Dylan Jacovo, MPP

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Undergraduate Institution: The University of Arizona

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

Ideologically-driven policymaking plagues systems throughout the United States; as a first-generation college student, and as a life-long student of Title-1 public schools, I have also personally witnessed and experienced how policies can hinder outcomes and success. I chose to study public policy because I became frustrated and disheartened by these inequities that are oftentimes caused by unsound and ill-founded policies. I recognized the unique approach Harris takes toward social impact, and I believe that this approach will help me strengthen my ability to advocate with and fight for my communities. 

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

My favorite class at Harris, so far, has been Stats II with Austin Wright. Professor Wright's ability to make his coursework inclusive, engaging, and interesting went a long way in helping me retain valuable information and gain practical skills related to statistical analysis. The amount of quantitative skills I gained from 10 short weeks surprised me. 

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

I wanted to serve as an Orientation Leader because of the impact that my Cohort experience had on me. I found Welcome Week to be incredibly engaging, and it helped me gain immediate insights and perspectives on important policy issues, and reminded me why I came to Harris in the first place. 

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

I had only visited Chicago twice before making the move across the country to attend Harris. For me, the best way to experience the city was venturing to different neighborhoods to experience sporting events or the Chicago nightlife. I guess where this wasn't enough, dates were a fun and casual way to experience the city.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I like to spend my free time traveling or playing sports. 

What is one fun fact about you?

“A fun fact about me is that I think yellow Starburst is underrated.” 


Rohit Joshi, MPP

Rohit Joshi, MPP

Focus on Energy and Environment
    
Hometown: Pittsburgh

Undergraduate Institution: Lehigh University

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

Energy Policy & Economics

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

Coming to Harris, I was incredibly nervous about being making the transition back from working to being a student again. My Orientation Leader was a massive part of me having a smooth transition and adapting to my new environment. She served as both a resource and a guide to the Harris academic and cultural climate. Following her example, I would like to do the same thing for the incoming class. 

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

Every time you hear about a neighborhood you might be interested in write it down. Once a week take a day to visit a new neighborhood and walk around for a couple hours after grabbing a bite to eat!

How do you like to spend your free time?

Reading and watching movies. 


Rahul Kulkarni, MPP

Rahul Kulkarni, MPP

Focus on Urban Policy

Hometown: Mumbai

Undergraduate Institution: Manipal Institute of Technology

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

Harris’ emphasis on evidence-based policy making, backed by quantitative research, has been consistent with its reputation of molding responsible leaders. Its community work is exciting, and its location in a city as complex and interesting as Chicago opens up multiple avenues for exploring policy in all its forms. 

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

I am excited to take Behavioral Science and Public Policy with Prof. Wolske, as I find Behavioral Science to be a fascinating field, but have never gotten an opportunity to study it.

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

The Day One programming team made the transition back to college life very smooth for me, and I had an amazing Orientation Leader. I want to provide the same guidance and reassurance to the incoming batch of 2020 that was given to me. 

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

Get that Divvy membership early on, and cycle around the city! There are lots of beautiful neighborhoods in Chicago, with rich histories and amazing architecture.

What is one fun fact about you?

“I have never lived in one city for more than 4 years!” 


Yuhang (Michael) Ma, MPP

Yuhang (Michael) Ma, MPP

Hometown: Nanjing, China

Undergraduate Institution: Grinnell College

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

I want to learn how to create good public policy, and hopefully bring back positive changes to China. 

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

I had a wonderful experience during my Orientation with my OL. I met new friends, learned a lot about Harris and Uchicago, and went on a cruise ship. I hope to pass on my experience and welcome you to Harris! 

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

I tried all the cafeterias on campus, and that introduced me to UChicago. There are also tons of activities everyday, and I joined choir and badminton, meeting undergraduates, law school students, booth students, PhDs, and even alumni. Hyde park is itself a very nice place. I lived on 51st, and for the first few days I just walked to Harris taking different route and explored the neighborhood. I personally find it easier to explore by myself first before going in as a group. Downtown, however, is more fun if you are going with friends.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I write novels, play badminton and soccer, make military models, sing, watch Netflix and play computer games.

What is one fun fact about you?

“I traveled in Europe by myself for 20 days in summer 2018. I was so tired when I came to Paris at the end of the trip, and I stayed in my airbnb for 2 days to reboot.” 


Nora McConnell-Johnson, MPP

Nora McConnell-Johnson, MPP

Focus on Kids and Families
    
Hometown: New Orleans

Undergraduate Institution: Reed College

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

I was a classroom teacher for many years and was constantly struck by factors beyond my classroom and influence that were impacting my students. I wanted to study public policy to better understand those factors and how to change them.

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

I'm in Management Matters with John Burrows right now and it's so fun. We have negotiation simulations and then dissect them. I've learned so much about myself as a communicator and thinker!

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

Orientation was a pivotal point for me at Harris and helped me have the first year experience I did. I want to make sure others' time is just as impactful. 

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

Walk/bike the Lakefront Trail from Hyde Park to Downtown Chicago (that's my summer plan once the trail is reopened).

How do you like to spend your free time?

As the weather has improved I've been loving meeting friends at local parks and sitting out in the sunshine. I also just reignited my love of "Survivor".... so binging that.

What is one fun fact about you?

“I've played rugby for the last 10+ years. No broken bones yet (and only one blown ligament)!” 


Phillipa Paisley, MPP

Phillippa Paisley, MPP 

Focus on Social Policy, Program Evaluation and International Development Policy
    
Hometown: St Mary, Jamaica/ Lauderdale Lakes, Florida

Undergraduate Institution: The University of the West Indies, Mona

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

I came to Harris wanting to build on my quantitative skills as it pertains to using big data as a tool to solve social issues. As an AmeriCorps Public Allies alum and a non-profit professional, I have worked in many different grassroots community service areas that operate on the limited capacity to serve many people. The leaders and volunteers are passionate in their call to action but sometimes face issues with the growth of their resources through increased quality of service, capacity to serve more and overall impact of their efforts. I want to help organizations to tap into their data to help with these challenges. 

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

My favorite class so far has been Management Matters: Leadership, Strategy and Getting things Done. 

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

I have fond memories of Jumpstart and Math Camp, meeting new lifelong friends and navigating through algebra and calculus. While this experience was great, it was still a challenge for me as someone with a non-quantitative background, but in retrospect find I have learned from my experience with the help of great Orientation Leaders. I want help future students have a similar if not better Orientation experience. 

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

(Post Quarantine) The best way to experience the city is by venturing out of Hyde Park with friends, visiting museums and doing touristy stuff.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I like to listen to music that gets my energy level up, chill by the lake/park/beach, read sci-fi/fantasy books and volunteer in my community. 

What is one fun fact about you?

“I was featured on South Florida PBS segment for Martin Luther King Day volunteer opportunities.” 


Hana Passen, MSCAPP

Hana Passen, MSCAPP

Focus on how technology can be leveraged to better deliver public goods and services - and in the importance of making sure we're thoughtful about the biases we bake into our technologies!
    
Hometown: Lusaka, Zambia 

Undergraduate Institution: Princeton University

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

Harris is the top place in the country for learning about policy and computer science. There are plenty of programs that teach data science skills, but the CAPP program here goes into such more depth and has so many more potential tracks than a pure data science program does. I'd worked in the policy world for many years, and since I come from a qualitative background, I wanted to skill up to learn the kinds of quantitative tools that would make me better able to serve the communities I care about. 

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

CAPP 121 - the first class in the CAPP sequence - was the best so far! 

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

My orientation leader was so good at building a community within my cohort, even for a few weeks, I wanted to be able to build that same kind of community for incoming students. 

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

Walk around and try new restaurants! There are so many neighborhoods, and the best way to experience them is to walk through them and eat all different kinds of food!

How do you like to spend your free time?

I'm into the outdoors, so whenever I can, I'm hiking or kayaking or swimming in the lake.

What is one fun fact about you?

“I have never had a full cup of coffee in my life. Instead, I drink lots of green tea!” 


Faith Powell, MPP

Faith Powell, MPP

Focus on Social Policy
    
Hometown: St. Charles, IL

Undergraduate Institution: Elmhurst College

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

Prior to coming to Harris, I worked in nonprofit advocacy and government relations in Washington, DC. I chose Harris for its unique emphasis at the intersection of social impact and data science. Harris has opened my eyes to exciting ways of combining previous advocacy experience with new analytical skills.

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

I have really enjoyed Program Evaluation with Professor Fiona Burlig this Spring. It's definitely outside of my comfort ~qualitative~ zone, but I'm learning a ton!

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

I am passionate about community building and its impact on student success. I'm looking forward to welcoming a new class to the Harris family!

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

Take the bus downtown and then out to as many neighborhoods as possible! Also, rent a Divvy bike, and check out the many museums and coffee shops around town.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Lounging in the sun at Promontory Point with Taylor and her sweet puppy Willow.

What is one fun fact about you?

“I quit my first job out of college without a plan and spent a month hiking in the PNW.”


Gabriel Prado, MPP

Gabriel Prado Correa, MPP

Focus on Healthcare and Data Science (in Python)
    
Hometown: Santiago, Chile

Undergraduate Institution: University of Notre Dame

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

I’m studying public policy at Harris because I want to obtain the quantitative background to understand the most important policies that are shaping our world. I decided to come to Harris to learn from world class faculty (such as Chris Blattman and James Robinson) and because of the flexibility of the curriculum, which lets you specialize in many different fields within public policy. Through my MPP, I am pursuing the data science and healthcare certificates, which will help me understand some of the key dynamics shaping the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and other healthcare challenges.

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

Program Evaluation has been my favorite class so far, but I'm also looking forward to taking State Formation in Latin America. 

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

I want to help students understand and adapt to Harris and U Chicago in general. Being an international student, I think it is important to have people that can help others navigate some of the challenging aspects of the US higher education system. I am also looking forward to leading interesting discussions and having fun activities with my cohort.

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

There are so many things to do in Chicago! There’s amazing Mexican food and artwork in Pilsen, Lincoln Park Zoo is beautiful, China Town has some awesome restaurants and there are many fun bars in Wicker Park. If you like cult films and fun crowds, you should go to the Music Box Theater in Lakeview. Also, if you’re into blues and live music, I highly recommend going to Kingston Mines or the Green Mill.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I spend my free time playing guitar and bass, hanging out with my wife, listening to old records and playing and watching soccer/football.

What is one fun fact about you?

“I’m going to be a dad in late July/early August! As of this writing (late May) my wife is 30 weeks pregnant.” 


Taylor Robinson, MPP

Taylor Robinson, MPP

Focus on Social Policy
    
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

Undergraduate Institution: Saint Louis University

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

I want to use the data and analytical skills I will gain from Harris to advocate for equitable, human-centered policies and interventions to alleviate racial disparities and to disrupt systemic and structural barriers that exist for many marginalized populations. 

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

My favorite class has been Stats II. It is definitely among one of the most challenging, but my professor was great and I felt myself learning with each problem set.

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

I was an RA during my undergraduate and loved the connection I made with students and I wanted to bring the same skillset and excitement to Harris and orientation. 

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

Prioritize taking time during Jumpstart and/or Math Camp to get out of Hyde Park and visit the other neighborhoods! It is such a great time to build relationships with other members of your class and get to find some hidden gem before the Core classes take up too much of your time. I am personally a big fan of Chicago native friends (and Yelp) to assist me in finding some cool spots.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Playing with my puppy Willow, spending time with family & friends, and cooking/baking

What is one fun fact about you?

“I once road a camel on the beach in Morocco!” 


Sabarish Shankar, MPP

Sabarish Shankar, MPP

Focus on Education Policy, Data and Evaluation
    
Hometown: Chennai, India

Undergraduate Institution: Shiv Nadar University

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

I believe in the role of government in maximizing social impact. I chose harris for the quantitative skills which will enable me to support a data-driven decision-making approach in policymaking. UChicago has been doing some fantastic work in terms of its programs on the ground in India and that inspired me to apply. Like-minded peers, supportive faculty and staff reaffirm my decision. 

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

Program Evaluation (by Fiona burlig), Statistics II (by Austin Wright), looking forward to Cost-Benefit Analysis next quarter.

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

I strongly believe in the word "Ubunto" which means together we can do more. Public policy is a field which requires this sense of kinship more than anything else. I wanted to pass on what we have learnt through a year here so that the incoming cohort can make new mistakes and start better.

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

Biking around the city or using CTA to make sure you visit the museums here. After things get back to normal, it's worth knowing that many museums are free for students.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Running around the lakefront or Washington park.

What is one fun fact about you?

“I was a middle school teacher before coming to Harris and kids say that I got eyes on my back.” 


Haotong (Jenny) Shin, MPP

Haotong (Jenny) Shi, MPP

MPP student focusing on Urban Policy
    
Hometown: Beijing China

Undergraduate Institution: University of California Santa Barbara

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

Studying communication at UCSB cultivated my understanding of the diversity and equality of human beings. During an interview as a journalist at the College Daily, I discovered the unequal treatment of undocumented labor occurring in Los Angeles which lead me to publish a policy solution to address the issue. This experience encouraged me to make more practical actions in helping the broader range of vulnerable populations through public policy solutions. I believe pursuing the MPP degree at Harris can help me advance policy and leverage my career goals. 

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

Every class taught by Thomas Colman. 

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

From my own experience, I know how influential and helpful the Orientation Leaders are in assisting incoming student with their transition to Harris. I hope I can make the same contribution to this year's incoming class, helping new students quickly and smoothly transition both academically and socially into Harris and the University of Chicago.

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

Visit the Museum, walk down on the Magnificent Mile, or hang around Downtown Chicago.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I like watching movies and reading books. I also enjoy some adventure sports like hiking, suffering, and sky diving. If possible, I would love to get together and hang outside in the future!

What is one fun fact about you?

“I used to live in California and hate cold winter, but I successfully made it through my first Chicago winter, yeah!”  


Aaron Smoot, MPP

Aaron Smoot, MPP

Focus on Education/ Environmental Policy
    
Hometown: Bowie, Maryland

Undergraduate Institution: University of Maryland

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

I am studying public policy at Harris to get a better understanding of quantitative research methods, specifically in education policy. I want to help students on a macro level to make our public school systems better and more equitable for all. I also chose Harris because of the reputation, the resources for post grad life, and because I love the city of Chicago. 

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

My favorite class that I have taken so far was Environmental Policy with Don Coursey. This class uses a lot of skills that were talked about in the core but applied to things that I really care about like finding ways to protect our earth and reducing the effects of climate change.

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

I want to serve as an orientation leader because I want to give back to a community that has made me feel so at home and I want to get to know all of you.

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

You have to explore the neighborhoods and find good places to eat. The best food isn't downtown at fancy restaurants it's in the surrounding neighborhoods so you have to explore.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I love to watch movies with friends, play intramural sports (basketball, flag football, soccer) here at UChicago, and go for runs.

What is one fun fact about you?

“I have a cat named Tim Duncan.” 


Madeline (Maddie) Soskin, MPP

Madeline (Maddie) Soskin, MPP

Hometown: Hopkins, MN

Undergraduate Institution: University of Richmond

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

In my professional life, I was providing federal clients strategic advice and direction, yet realized that I needed a better understanding of the public policy world to be able to do this to the best of my ability and provide the greatest value to the clients I aim to serve in the future.

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

I loved Analytical Politics, and am looking forward to taking Management Matters next year!

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

People matter - the relationships we make at Harris will serve as our life-long friends and professional network. To me, there is no greater way to help build these connections than as an Orientation Leader.

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

For those living in Hyde Park, make sure you get downtown! Go for long walks by the river and lake, and explore the many neighborhoods throughout the Chicago-area.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I love to be outside by the lake, practice yoga, and am currently in a fierce NYT crossword puzzle competition with my Harris friends.

What is one fun fact about you?

“I worked in the Pentagon for almost 2 years!” 


Ishani Tikku, MPP

Ishani Tikku, MPP

Focus on gender, the informal economy, and governance challenges in developing countries
    
Hometown: Delhi, India

Undergraduate Institution: Delhi University

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

I'm at Harris because I wanted the quantitative toolkit that Harris offers, that can help me inform policy decisions. I wanted to ensure that I can quantify impact along with being able to understand the qualitative environment in which these challenges take place. 

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

I loved Program Evaluation by Fiona Burlig and thoroughly enjoyed Steven Durlaufs Advanced Microeconomics class!

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

I think an OL's play a crucial role in the early days at Harris, these days are so special and I really wanted to be a part of a team that makes it happen.

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

Definitely recommend taking long walks with new friends and exploring the jazz scene here, it's truly special.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I like to pick out a book to read that is not related to the course, it keeps me engaged in something other than academics and I also love to cook for my friends.

What is one fun fact about you?

“I trick myself into believing that life is in perfect order by putting my things in order. It's ridiculous, but works!” 


Fanmei Xia, MPP

Fanmei Xia, MPP

Focus on Education Policy
    
Hometown: Zhengzhou / Beijing

Undergraduate Institution: Boston College

Why are you studying public policy at Harris?

I appreciate Harris’ evidence-based approach to policymaking. As we all know, good intentions do not make successful policies. I came to Harris not only for its resources and platform, but also for the hard skills that I can get from the curriculums and activities targeted on specific policy issues. I want to best prepare myself to make responsible decisions. Now I've been here for almost a year, and Harris has not failed to give me surprises. I appreciate how people at Harris are committed to the public good, and I’m constantly amazed by people surrounding me, including faculty, staff, and my fellow classmates.

What has been your favorite class, or which class are you looking forward to taking?

I really enjoy my Workplace and Family Policy that I'm taking this quarter. It covers many topics that I'm very interested in, such as universal basic income (UBI), gender wage and employment gaps, discrimination in the workplace, family leave and childcare policies, tax policies, and related welfare policies. 

Why did you want to serve as an Orientation Leader?

I personally encountered some difficulties settling in Hyde Park, and it would have been impossible if not because of the OLs, ASA staff, and friends I made during Math Camp and Orientation. Thus, I want to help the incoming students the same way as I was helped :)

For those new to Chicago, how can they best experience the city?

Make a food map and explore the city while enjoying some good food! (Also recommending all the museums -- they are incredible!)

How do you like to spend your free time?

Books, music, puzzles.

What is one fun fact about you?

“I'm allergic to mushroom. It's a rare allergy. Story doesn't end there... the worst part is that my mom never believed it when I was young so I was forced to eat mushrooms until one time I had serious reaction right away...”