Every day brings new challenges for professionals. We understand your desire to become better leaders.

Whether you are seeking to be more effective in your current role, transitioning to a new career, or pursuing lifelong learning, Harris is here to support your professional development. 

Show Up

Please join us in our upcoming professional development events. These webinars focus on providing insights and skills to guide you through your career “transitions,” and add to your communications skills toolbox. 

Our next webinar will continue our “Wellness” series on October 4, 2022, at 2:00 pm.  Michelle Fraley, whose presentation titled “Master Your Mindset: Practical Strategies for Living a Balanced Life During Turbulent Times” was so well received last January, will join us again. This time Michelle will present “Cultivating Confidence,” an in-depth discussion of confidence, including misconceptions about confidence, growth mindset, emotional resilience, and imposter syndrome. Michelle has a master’s degree in clinical psychology, is a clinical counselor, certified holistic life coach, yoga/meditation teacher and highly regarded speaker.

Register here.

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.

Interview with Ianna Kachoris Ori
MPP '02

The following interview has been edited.

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).

Headshot of Ianna Kachoris
Ianna Kachoris

I was born and raised in Chicago in the Sheffield Neighborhood and attended Chicago public schools. Growing up in the city is a big part of who I am and why I do what I do today.  Living a mile from Cabrini Green, and seeing the gentrification and uneven development in my community, led me to want to be engaged and to focus my energy and efforts around housing and community development policy, and be part of those conversations. 

I went to college at Emory University in Atlanta because I wanted to experience how these issues played out in another big city. There I studied sociology and English and deepened my interest in urban dynamics and how cities develop. I can’t say enough about how my focus on  English prepared me to be a good writer and communicator of policy. 

I applied to attend the Harris School after college, and received some very good advice from a Harris alum to get some work experience before I went back to graduate school. I joined the Department of Health and Human Services as a program evaluator. It was an incredible opportunity to delve into how policy gets implemented and learn how to approach implementation to achieve better outcomes for individuals and families. 

Connections to policy, mentor, and a policy organization grow while at Harris

Being at the Harris School really deepened my appreciation for the complexity of our policies and systems which shape how we live. I used my time at Harris to reorient myself back to housing and community development issues. At Harris, my mentor Maria Whelan (UChicago MA, and former President and CEO of Illinois Action for Children) connected me with the Metropolitan Planning Council. They were working on issues of public housing transformation, which was pivotal in shaping my course work to give me the skills I needed to work on affordable housing development and urban development. Public financing is such a key piece so that was my concentration at Harris. I also took real estate and urban planning courses at Booth and SSA.

After graduation I worked for the Fannie Mae Foundation here in Chicago, again focusing on affordable housing policy. In addition to making grants, I engaged on state and local policy issues to incentivize developers to build and preserve more affordable housing. 

After a few years at Fannie Mae, another mentor of mine told me that Senator Edward M.  Kennedy was looking for a policy advisor on economic development.  I moved to Washington D.C. and worked on Capitol Hill for Senator Kennedy for two years, where I experienced how the sausage gets made. It was a huge growing and learning experience for me, often working on unfamiliar issues. My role was to inform the Senator’s position on issues from housing to energy to transportation to international trade. 

On Capitol Hill, housing was only one of the many issues I was working on, and I realized that what really mattered to me are the inequities at the root of our societal challenges.  The Pew Charitable Trusts, which was increasing its DC presence, was creating a project on economic mobility. In contrast to the partisan environment on Capitol Hill, the Economic Mobility Project brought ideologically disparate thinkers, leaders, and researchers from different think tanks to work together. We researched the facts, figures and trends determining the challenges for economic mobility to explore the question: how healthy is the American Dream and what can we do to increase the chances for all?

I led this project for three years, working with leaders from the Urban Institute, the Brookings Institution, New America Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute. We looked at data, digging into the research, and determining which investments by the federal government were mobility enhancing. It was gratifying to see how research could play a part in shaping dialogues and, in some ways, unify towards solutions.  We produced a series of reports and crafted a policy agenda which was agreed to by all the participants. 

Another Harris connection assists in career change

Chicago is home, and I was looking for an opportunity that would bring me back to Chicago. Erika Poethig (MPP ’96, now the Special Assistant to the President for Housing and Urban Policy, recent Harris Career Achievement Award winner) who had become a mentor, reached out to say that she was leaving the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  I applied to take on her former role, leading the portfolio around housing policy and research. We moved back to Chicago so I could continue working on those issues from our hometown. 

My work at MacArthur continued to build on my experience of how important research is to driving public discourse. The idea was to deepen the literature and evidence around the ways that decent, stable, affordable housing can impact people in other aspects of their lives such as educational outcomes, economic mobility, and health and well-being.  We built a body of work in partnership with national and local grantees translating research into policy action, changing the narrative, and engaging people in other sectors such as healthcare. That work continues to live on, and to inform advocacy and policy conversations today.  I am very proud of it. 

From working with Harris Policy Labs at Office of Civic Engagement to Chicago Community Trust

After eight years marshalling that body of work at MacArthur,  I was looking for a position that would connect me to more practical work. I joined the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement to support their portfolio of increased engagement in the South Side community. While there, the work I did with the Harris Policy Labs and the Community Programs Accelerator was crucial. It strengthened my appreciation for the effectiveness and challenges of authentically working in partnership with institutions, community organizations and residents. 

About three years ago,  I joined the Chicago Community Trust where I am now the Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy. The Trust is expanding its efforts to close the racial and ethnic wealth gap. To achieve this strategic vision, the Trust is using its ability as a public charity to lobby and take a more active role in policy conversations. I was brought in to help build and lead this work. We help community-based organizations and non-profit advocates  be more effective champions for underinvested and marginalized communities. As an institution, we are also using our voice to advocate for policy and systems reforms that are critical to building wealth for underinvested and disenfranchised households and communities. 

I’ve had many great professional experiences since my time at Harris. Today I live in the city with my husband Sam Ori (Harris MPP ’03) and our two boys, just a mile from my childhood home. Every day I participate in conversations and efforts to make Chicago a thriving and equitable city. 

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

There are challenges every day. The fact that the Chicago Community Trust as a leading civic institution is adding its voice on policy issues is new. This organization has been known for making grants, so people are not used to seeing the Trust take a stand and plant a flag on issues. It is a challenge every day to figure out the right way to show up on a particular issue: how to be authentic, how to center on community, be a partner, and add our voice in a way that does not come across as the eight-hundred-pound gorilla, as we are sometimes viewed. 

This last year we supported a coalition of organizations working to expand the earned income tax credit, many of whom we also funded. The coalition supported expanding the credit to broader age groups and to non-citizens who file and pay taxes, and increasing the amount of the credit. After three years of supporting this work, the expansion passed during this spring’s legislative session. 

It's been a journey over the last couple of years to thoughtfully shift the perception of how the Trust can be both a funder of other organizations and a partner, while we move the needle on policy issues and achieve tangible improvements in people’s lives.  

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

When I was at Harris, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to use the problem sets we were working on for policy change. Looking back and having the perspective of a twenty-plus-year career now, I think the biggest thing I learned was how to make sense of complex policy problems; how to take a problem or an issue that I didn’t know anything about, dissect it, absorb the research and literature, and distill it in a way that is meaningful to the policy process.

A couple of examples: when I worked in Senator Kennedy’s office, where I was tasked with working on international trade policy,  there were several free trade agreements being considered at the time. Two weeks after I joined, I used my Harris skills to dissect the issues and challenges, quickly absorb the research, and identify the key constituencies. I produced a two-page memo on a very complex topic that would help inform the Senator’s position on the Central American Free Trade Agreement.  I could not have done that without my Harris degree.

Another example is from my time at both Pew and MacArthur: there were so many research projects we were supporting where I needed to understand the statistical significance, power calculations, and all the things that you learn in regression analysis, because we were publishing the research or distillations of it. I would not have been as effective a director of both projects if I did not have those research tools at my disposal. You better believe my textbooks were in my office, and I would reference them regularly!

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

Ianna at the beach
Ianna Kachoris at the beach

I am a warm weather person so an ideal day off is going to the beach and Lake Michigan. It is my happy place. Sometimes I read, but mostly I watch my kids having fun, and enjoy the mind space. It is hard to find the time where I can disconnect from work, or from making sure the kids are on top of their homework and getting to baseball or hockey practice. It’s rare that I have the opportunity to be in the moment and think – which is important for all of us to do. 

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

It’s easy at Harris to become absorbed in the projects and problem sets, and it is important to do all that work and do it well.  At the end of the day getting all your problem sets 100% correct is not the thing that will make you successful. It’s working in partnership; it’s working, learning, pushing, and being on that continued quest for growth. The learning doesn’t stop when you get that degree. It’s the lifelong appreciation and push for different perspectives, partnership, and collaboration that makes the work successful, and worthwhile. 

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 Transition Series, the Influencing Series, the Leadership Series, and the Wellness Series.

Meta Reflections on Career and Life Connections

Headshot of Rafi Nulman

Rafi Nulman’s job title (Director of Product Strategy at Meta – formerly Facebook) does not divulge the extent of his strategic thinking – but his LinkedIn posts are more revealing.  He is a deep thinker who is insightful, funny, and wise beyond his years. He posted a commentary with the title “The Joy” and wrote this:

“The world rewards a certain type of productivity with recognition and promotions. Certainly these are important. Resume bullets aren’t simply a vanity metric. They say ‘I was here and I performed and I mattered.’  At some point we’re all called to give an accounting of how we’ve spent our time, even if just to ourselves. And at that point, I won’t call up my resume bullets to justify my choices. It will be the pleasure of being helpful and dependable; of being kind; of laughing as part of a team.”

Rafi’s posts cover a wide range of topics: decision-making, inspiration, failure, wellness, joy, the role of data, building connections, leadership, and sometimes he even writes about his job.  Rafi earned his BS in math and economics at the University of Chicago, and his MBA from Booth where he was a Gary Becker Distinguished Fellow and a leadership facilitator. He also worked as a consultant for McKinsey. 

Our webinar also covered a wide range of topics.  Listen to hear Rafi’s thoughts about:

  • The interviewing process and why some challenging interview questions, and resumes, don’t measure someone’s talent and potential. 
  • How to use LinkedIn posts as an influencing tool and a career-enhancing communication tool to build relationships. (Hint: clarity is very important.)
  • Why when we are stuck on a problem, it’s important to recognize that sometimes there is no simple answer, and that it’s always important to care of  the basics:  your body (sleep, nutrition, exercise) and soul (time with friends).
  • The role of humor in our lives, and the importance of knowing we can’t be good at everything.

Watch “Meta Reflections on Career and Life Connections” with Rafi Nulman here.


To see an interview with Dawn Turner, author of Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate and Sisterhood, watch 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.