Friday, Sept. 27th - 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. (Doors Open at 11:30 a.m.) - Keller Center Tent

We are excited to welcome students from all over the globe to Harris this fall. As your preparation begins, we are excited to help you get started with an initiative that will help you not only learn, but also build a shared experience with your classmates and create community at Harris – The Common Read.  

The 2019 Harris School of Public Policy Common Read is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. In this timely and intelligently written memoir, attorney Bryan Stevenson highlights the injustice in the criminal justice system for those individuals seen at the margins of society who are voiceless, low-income, and often people of color. Stevenson, who became a MacArthur Genius Award recipient, is a social justice activist who poignantly takes us on a journey to help us understand the dynamics of race in America and the impact it has on a system of policies that are expected to yield results that are fair and just.

The common read was carefully selected by our 2019 Orientation Staff. Part of the selection process included reflection on the goals of the common read and our commitment to provide ongoing dialogue throughout the school year on important policy topics directly related to the book. The common read is part of Harris’ commitment to diversity and inclusion and our belief that it is essential that future policymakers be given the opportunity to gain an understanding of the lived experiences of people who have been marginalized and explore related policy questions.  As you read through the book over the summer, read with a critical lens and explore policy issues that come to light.  Also explore the role that race plays, both implicit and explicit, and challenge the current discourse on whether our criminal justice policies are impartial.  The main goal is simple – to have all incoming students collectively share in a single learning experience while gaining an appreciation for diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and individual stories that not only impacts how we work together as classmates, but how we view the world as future policymakers. 

All incoming students are expected to participate in the Common Read.  There will be small group discussions during orientation as well as a large group discussion that will occur at the Diversity Luncheon. It is imperative that all students read the book prior to orientation in order to contribute and gain from the discussion with your peers. In addition, Orientation Leaders will be engaging incoming students in a variety of ways over the summer to help ensure that everyone is included in the Common Read process. This is a unique opportunity to partake in conversation and bring you together with your Harris community. All continuing students, faculty, and staff are also encouraged to participate in the common read before the start of the academic year and contribute to discussions that will occur throughout the school year. 

You will be challenged to reflect upon the common read at the Common Read Luncheon on September 27, 2019 from 12:00 - 1:30 pm in the Keller Tent.  The Luncheon will include opening remarks from Michelle Hoereth, Director of Diversity and Inclusion and a panel of policy experts including;

  • Alice Kim, Director of Human Rights Practice, Pozen Family Center for Human Rights
  • Risa Lanier, Chief, Criminal Prosecutions Bureau Cook County State's Attorney's Office
  • Sharone Mitchell, Jr., Director Illinois Justice Project

Past common read books include: 

The South Side (2018)

High Rise Stories (2017)


Crime Lab

Fighting Poverty and Inequality: How Crime Lab Uses Academic Research to Impact Public Policy

A decade later, the work of Crime Lab has inspired a White House initiative, spawned partnerships in Chicago and New York, and drawn tens of millions of dollars in support from local philanthropists and sports teams.