MarySue Barrett

Temporary Instructor


MarySue Barrett leads people and institutions in designing innovative pathways to equitable policy change. She is a values-based, high-energy strategist who deploys her extensive network to build bridges between the public, private, community, and philanthropic sectors. MarySue is a passionate proponent of combining data, storytelling, and coordinated investments to unlock the vibrancy of urban areas.

For 25 years, she was President of the independent Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC). Focused on the Chicago region, MPC has become a model for change makers everywhere. Its 2017 Cost of Segregation study attracted national attention as institutions grappled with centering equity in their decision making.

MarySue grew MPC four-fold and attracted a diverse, talented staff and Board that delivered bold, innovative solutions to complex problems spanning all aspects of the built environment: water infrastructure, transportation, affordable housing, tax policy, sustainability, and more.

In 2022, MarySue began advising local, national, and international purpose-driven organizations through MSB Policy Consulting, LLC. She helps clients assess strengths and gaps, sharpen tactics, communicate consistently, and deepen diverse partnerships. She has completed projects for Brookings Metro, SPARCC, RW Ventures, and the Pritzker Traubert Foundation.

Currently, MarySue is consulting the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), where she assists national and state teams in mapping and implementing green and equitable infrastructure investments in priority areas. And she is conducting programming research, planning potential pathways, and exploring business and partnership structures for a new Women’s Leadership Center in Williams Bay, Wisconsin on the shores of Geneva Lake.

MarySue is respected for her ability to inspire trust and foster unusually strong community, government, and private sector alliances. At MPC, some of her proudest accomplishments include a national Employer-Assisted Housing prototype, the Great Rivers Chicago vision plan, historic investments in the regional transit network, and growing a $4M gift from the MacArthur Foundation into a $16M organizational fund for its future.

Earlier, MarySue served as Chief of Policy for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. As the Administration’s “new ideas entrepreneur”, she spearheaded community economic development, public safety, and education policy. She also coordinated innovation teams spanning 40 departments and seven city agencies and built alliances with external partners in academia and foundations.

MarySue is frequently tapped as a public speaker and as an advisor to corporate, philanthropic, and private sector leaders. In 2021, she completed two terms on the Board of IFF (a Midwest Community Development Finance institution) and continues as a Board member of Current Water and Edgar Fellows. She is also active with Leadership Greater Chicago and The Chicago Network. MarySue participates in the Commercial Club of Chicago and the Economic Club of Chicago and volunteers with One Million Degrees and The Night Ministry.

MarySue earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications at Northwestern University. She completed the Strategic Perspectives in Non-profit Management program at the Harvard Business School and Antiracism Training through Chicago ROAR. She is the mother of two young adults, Jacob and Cassandra.