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Join us for live webinars available to Harris alum to learn from public policy professionals and develop leadership skills.

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Take Five with Terri

Terri Brady, Harris' Executive Director of Professional Development, wants to know what makes Harris Alumni tick. In Take Five with Terri, she asks Harris alums five questions about their life and careers after Harris, and about the wisdom they gained along the way.

Take 5 with Lea Crusey MPP ‘08

1. Tell us about your personal and professional journey (where did you grow up, where do you live now, and what do you do professionally).

I grew up in central New Jersey about halfway between Philadelphia and New York, the youngest of three. I am incredibly fortunate in many ways. I grew up with all my basic needs met and plenty of stability, and with easy access to positive role models and support. There was no question that I would go to college. In fact, I believe I am the fourth generation to get a college education.

Lea Crusey Headshot
Lea Crusey, MPP '08

As the youngest, my choices have often been strongly influenced by the choices made by my siblings. Like them, I only considered small liberal arts colleges and like them I chose to major in history (though I also double majored in government). I chose to travel far from home for college but still with support, as my uncle’s family lived in the California town where I attended college. My mother’s family immigrated from China to Claremont when she was a young child and there were some strong family connections to the Claremont colleges. My grandmother ran the Asian studies collection in the library.

I have always been drawn to the complicated, sometimes messy, but incredibly important fulfilling call of public policy. My career has orbited around that for the last 20 years.

After college I joined Teach for America. Teach for America intrigued me because I wanted to do something challenging and the call of service was appealing since my parents had met as VISTA volunteers. I assumed I would follow in my siblings’ path and go to law school but I found teaching both fulfilling and challenging, and my siblings were not happy about choosing law. At that point I met my then boyfriend and now husband who shared my wanderlust. That next year we both worked internationally (I taught) while I also applied to graduate school for public policy.

I chose to apply to the University of Chicago because of the high-quality program Harris offered. I was also intrigued by exploring a new and different location that was neither east nor west coast. So, I moved from Shanghai to Chicago.

Unique career path

Fifteen years later I have charted my own unique career path. From Harris I went to the Chicago Transit Authority, and then worked for a first-in-concept public-private partnership which was a concession agreement between the city of Chicago and Chicago Parking Meters. It was a powerful learning experience! Controversial, yes, but I learned a lot and it gave me an important insight into how the government at times needs to work with outside partners to improve public works and city services. I am grateful for the team I worked with. It gave me the opportunity to see how hard change management can be at scale.

However, I began to feel that I was too far from where I started. As part of my volunteer work I helped start the young professionals board for KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Chicago, which gave me a foot back in the education world. I realized my friends were from that world and I was getting much more fulfillment from that activity. While I had learned hard skills and developed professionally in my job, I decided that I wanted my life to be back in the education space and more squarely in public policy. I was living a case study and that was valuable but as one of my Harris mentors put it “my soul wasn’t happy.”

I joined StudentsFirst, the national advocacy organization that Michelle Rhee launched when she left Washington, DC. That brought my husband and me to Sacramento.

At StudentsFirst I led legislative advocacy in multiple states. Initially, I traveled full time, then relocated our home to Kansas City, Missouri for a brief and delightful period.

We moved to DC about a year later when I started a new job with The Democrats for Education Reform. The organization was headquartered in New York but we moved to Capitol Hill because it was easy to take the train to New York. Eventually, I became the interim executive director and helped to usher in the new director.

I had the privilege of serving at the US Department of Education at the very end of President Obama’s administration. This new position was an opportunity to develop a perspective on the federal government and the unique but limited role of the federal government in education policy.

An entrepreneur fulfills her soul

After that term ended I leaned into my entrepreneurial side. I created a peer-funded and peer-advised political action committee that I ran for four years. For that I fund-raised from my peers across the country, from people working in classrooms all the way up to the US Secretary of Education. The contributions into this PAC were personal, not funded through companies or foundations.

Education policy in the US is uniquely decentralized so managing the PAC was a powerful opportunity to engage with people who are doing the work at different levels of “altitude.” This role deepened my understanding of the fact that no one level of government has control, and the rules and regulations, policies, and funding can vary significantly depending on where you are.

Today I am co-founder of a Denmark-based start-up that makes wellbeing tools for teachers, called WOOF. It is timely, relevant, and deeply fascinating. I have been in the start-up world now since late 2020 when I wound down the PAC. During the pandemic it just didn’t feel right fund-raising at a time of such great uncertainty.

I started this journey in Chicago of fulfilling my soul and having an impact through volunteering and public service. Currently, I am an appointed member of the DC Public Charter School Board and am in my third year as chair of that body. It is an independent agency governed by a seven-member board, appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council. We provide oversight as the sole charter school authorizer in the District of Columbia.

Public charter schools educate almost half of the public-school students in DC. There are seventy local educational agencies (school districts) in DC. Sixty-nine of the schools are under our authority. Some of the schools are very small single-site schools, and others are large networks like KIPP DC. The District of Columbia model is unique in that we have universal pre-K and we also offer adult charter schools. It’s a privilege to serve in this capacity.

2. Please describe a recent work project that you found particularly challenging or interesting and tell us why.

There is no end to what is interesting about what I do because it is at the intersection of practice and policy. What isn’t interesting about that?

My service on the DC Public Charter School Board is the privilege of a lifetime. When I think about the history of the pursuit of a high-quality education in the District of Columbia, especially for students from historically marginalized groups, it is deeply humbling. I am awed by the responsibility that I have to them and to their families as a board member.

Our agency has been working on a big project the last few years. We are revising the tool that we use to evaluate how a school is performing. A charter school is a legal agreement and periodically the authorizer determines whether or not a charter gets renewed or should be revoked. The evaluation tool informs high-stakes decisions because renewing and revoking charters is an act of critical government oversight. Parents are entrusting that their students have access to a high quality school. Thus, it is the authorizer’s responsibility to set the expectations for quality.

This revision to the accountability framework has been under development for a few years and can get wonky and technical. The agency released the revision’s “technical guide” for public comment and there will be public hearings to hear reactions to it from various stakeholders. We will vote on it in June.

It’s been an interesting process and we have learned a lot. Considering all that has happened over the past four years (COVID, lack of statewide testing for a few of those years), it’s so important that this accountability work get back into practice so that we are propelling learning forward for young people.

3. What aspects of your Harris education have been most valuable to you in your career?

There are two aspects of my Harris education that have been valuable. There is the obvious value of the analytical tools and methods themselves. It was enormously valuable to learn them in a rigorous fashion, particularly alongside thoughtful students who were focusing on different policy areas. Harris gave me a theoretical framework to think about policy across a range of issues, which makes me more effective as a leader, practitioner, and frankly as a voter.

The second aspect of my education which has been valuable, are the relationships I built and the friendships with classmates who vary in their disciplines and areas of study. Today I was texting with a friend from Harris who runs a sex-ed policy outfit because I regularly find myself wondering what a Harris friend would think about something. The fact that an individual is not in the educational world is valuable, especially because we share familiarity with the analytical tools and methods. We start from a place of established trust and familiarity so we can really dig into the question we are working on. I like to think it makes for more effective leadership in policy and action. It’s also rewarding.

Lea on a hike, smiling at the camera
Lea, enjoying a beautiful hike

4. What is an ideal fun day off for you?

A fun day off these days is an adventure with my kids. I have a five year old and a nine year old, and once my younger one got close to five, life became easier. With a bonus day off I would explore something with one of my kids or all together as a family at a museum here in DC, a hiking or a camping trip in the region, or going to visit a historical site. During the early part of the pandemic Hamilton was released on Disney and now we are “Hamilton heads”! Last summer we went to the Schuyler Mansion in Albany, New York. We had so much fun and the kids were enthralled, still referring back to it now (they were astounded that George Washington had to use an outhouse there because there was no internal plumbing!).

5. What piece of “counter-intuitive” advice would you give your “Harris self” now?

I wonder if this would have only been counter-intuitive for me: there is a reason certain classes are really popular. You know when you go to a food hall and there is a long line for certain food stands? There is a reason. During my whole Harris experience the theme was more like my liberal arts education. Now I would tell myself not to choose classes just because the topic looks interesting. I was paying for Harris – all of it – taking out loans. I want to go back to give my younger self the advice of “no, no you really should have taken classes with X, Y, and Z and soak it all up.” I guess that is the advice everyone gives their younger self: “soak it all up.” But again, there is a reason the line is long. That person is a great professor! Take that class. I try not to live a life of regrets, but not taking a class with Kerwin (Charles) is one of my regrets.

Read Up

Stay informed about important professional development and leadership topics. Our curated and insightful articles highlight connections to our webinar speakers. 

High-Performing Professionals Run on Self Awareness
A commentary by Terri Brady about developing self-awareness, which requires curiosity, humility, and courage.

How to Network When There Are No Networking Events
Our initial webinar speaker, thought leader Dorie Clark, wrote a piece in Harvard Business Review on how to network when there are no networking events.

Master of Influence: The “Notorious RBG” Used Persuasion to Advance Equality
A commentary by Terri Brady about how Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg used the persuasion tools of framing, building relationships, and asking strategic questions to change policy and laws.

The Power of Networking: A Harris Connection Story
When Harris alumna Mary Michaud, MPP ’95, connected with Analiese Wagner, MPP ’20 and Sarah Gill, MPP ’20 it triggered a powerful chain of subsequent connections and events. And it all began with a single email.

Listen Up

Explore our collection of webinar series and individual events to hear from experts on a range of topics related to professional development and leadership.

Listen to past webinars from the:

A Communicating Public Policy Webinar

Chaos: The Art of Timing and Opportunity 

Jay Heinrichs headshot, smiling
Jay Heinrichs

On Tuesday, April 30, 2024 at 2:00 pm CST, the Harris community joined us for a conversation with communication expert Jay Heinrichs. Jay is one of our most popular previous guests. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion. Published in 15 languages and 4 editions, it has ranked among the top 10 books assigned by faculty at Harvard. He has conducted content consulting for NASA, the Wharton School of Business, Kaiser Permanente, the European Speechwriters Network, the Pentagon, and many others. Bloomberg BusinessWeek profiled his work with the marketing firm Ogilvy UK in a feature titled “Jay Heinrich’s Powers of Persuasion.”

We live in a chaotic time of divisive politics, existential threats, and disinformation overload. Not to mention the chaos in our own lives. What should we do, and when should we do it? Take heart. The ancient Greeks, who lived in especially chaotic times, invented a set of techniques to deal with our messiest situations. They called it Kairos, the art of opportunity.

Kairos theory offers us a modern sense of timing – when to send an email, speak at a meeting, or seize the perfect moment for persuasion – along with ways to navigate public and private chaos. In this highly interactive workshop, Jay Heinrichs, author of the leading book on rhetoric, offered tools to solve our biggest policy problems while navigating the chaos in our own lives. Listen to this webinar and come away with a new method for defining issues, a rhetorical outlook on time – and, best of all, a superior sense of timing. 

Listen to the webinar here.

A Wellness Webinar

Real Self-Care: A conversation with Pooja Lakshmin, MD

On Wednesday, February 14, 2024, CST we hosted Dr. Lakshmin to discuss her best-selling book “REAL SELF-CARE: Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included,” in which she developed and discusses a “transformative program for redefining wellness.” Her book is an NPR Best Book of 2023, and she has been featured on Good Morning America, NPR’s Code Switch, The Ezra Klein Show, The Guardian, and The New York Times.  

Headshot of Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, smilingDr. Lakshmin is a board-certified psychiatrist and contributor to The New York Times who serves as a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Lakshmin maintains an active private practice where she treats clients struggling with burnout, perfectionism, and disillusionment as well as clinical conditions like depression, anxiety, and ADHD. She frequently speaks, advises, and consults on mental health, well-being, and real self-care.  

Terri Brady, Executive Director of Professional Development at the Harris School of Public Policy hosted this webinar. Listen to learn:  

  • Why real self-care is an internal process, is really a “verb not a noun,” how and why your decision-making process about your well-being is at the core of real self-care, and unlike “faux self-care” it will not add to your “to do” list.
  • How the four principles of real self-care – setting boundaries, practicing self-compassion, determining and aligning your values, and exercising power – will help you to find wellness and ownership of your life.
  • Why it is important to prioritize our relationships and choose quality relationships where we can feel like our authentic selves.
  • Stories of individuals who advocated for themselves with real self-care and through individual actions created improved awareness and better policies for their communities, thereby demonstrating good models for public policy collective action.

Listen to the webinar here

A Communicating Public Policy Webinar

Getting From Here to There: A Conversation with Transit Expert Jay Walder

Headshot of Jay Walder, smilingOn Tuesday, November 7, 2023 at 2:00 pm CST the Harris community joined us for a conversation with transit expert Jay Walder who led organizations that provided transportation across the globe (London, Hong Kong, New York) and in practically every mode of transportation from subways to trains to biking and even the futuristic hyperloop pod. 

This webinar continued our series “Communicating Public Policy” with a leader who has used the power of communications in various modes and in multiple policy situations. While he was the Managing Director for Finance and Planning at Transport for London he introduced the Oyster card, which the New York Times called a “high-tech transit reform” which “helped turn London’s aging transit system into an envy of the globe.” When he was the Chairman and CEO of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the largest transit agency in the United States, he led the company through the 2009 economic crisis. 

As President and CEO of Motivate International, the largest bike sharing company in the United States, he took over a struggling company and led a dramatic turnaround before its sale to Lyft. Under his leadership at Virgin Hyperloop, the company raised more than $400 million, qualified for US Federal Transportation funding, and hosted the first people to ever ride in a hyperloop pod. 

Currently Mr. Walder is a Senior Advisor to McKinsey & Company and serves on a number of boards. 

Listen to this webinar to learn:

  • About Jay’s career path from his first job as an analyst with an MPP degree at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority to eventually heading that same agency, and the opportunities, challenges, and joys of working in the transportation field in both the public and private sectors. Hint: it’s different to be a consultant!
  • How the introduction of a new initiative at Transport for London when Jay led the development of the Oyster card was part of a strategic change to increase accessibility, ease the payment process, cut costs and increase the speed of “getting from here to there” for travelers.
  • The importance of transparency and communication to stakeholders (e.g., press conferences and videos) when initiating change and why leaders should listen to their constituents’ concerns to add perspective and overcome potential bias or narrow thinking.
  • How Jay and the bike-sharing team at Motivate brought their values to their mission by increasing wellness, increasing accessibility for public housing residents, and creating programs such as “how to ride a bike” to benefit individuals and their communities.

Listen to the webinar here.

Speak Up

Partner with us in our efforts to support lifelong learning and Harris community building!

Ask a question

If you have questions about professional development, or you would like us to explore specific subjects, contact Terri Brady, Executive Director of Professional Development at tbrady@uchicago.edu.


Do you want to contribute your opinion in writing?

The Chicago Policy Review invites all Harris alumni to submit opinion editorials for their Commentary section. Promote your professional brand to an audience of policy experts. 

Submit your editorial.

Send questions to the Chicago Policy Review editor in chief at editor.in.chief@chicagopolicyreview.org.