Harris Public Policy alumni are taking the Harris motto of “Social Impact, Down to a Science” into the real world every day. As a part of our 2019 Year in Review series, let’s take a look at just some of the alumni who made an impact in 2019:

1 and 2. Michelle M. Garcia, MPP’05, and Jacob Plummer, MPP’07, MBA’10

Dean Katherine Baicker with award recipients Michelle M. Garcia MPP'05 and Jacob Plummer MPP‘07, MBA’10

In 2019, two remarkable alumni were honored for their exceptional contributions to public policy. Dean Katherine Baicker and Harris Council Alumni Award committee Chair Chen Wen, MPP’91, presented Michelle M. Garcia, MPP‘05, with the Career Achievement Award and Jacob R. Plummer, MPP‘07, MBA’10, with the Rising Star Award.

3. Natalya Wallin, MPP'15

Natalya Wallin, MPP'15

As the director of strategic partnerships for the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, Wallin says she employs everything she studied at Harris—from economics to data analytics to political economy—to take on the challenge of addressing a crime of economic opportunity that impacts an estimated 40 million people worldwide.

4.Ruby Mendenhall, MPP’94

Ruby Mendenhall, MPP'94

Ruby Mendenhall, MPP'94, believes that effective public policy does not start in the ivory towers of academia or governmental agencies, but in the community and on the street. Throughout her career, she has strived to seek out the mostly unheard voices of “Hidden Americans” in an attempt to shape policy that reflects and impacts their lived experiences.

5. Manuel Aragonés, MPP’16

Manuel Aragones, MPP'16

Aragonés is helping government authorities address one of the gravest issues facing modern-day Mexico: the disappearance of more than 30,000 people at the hands of drug cartels since 2006.

6. Jack Brofman, MPP’16

Jack Brofman MPP'16
Jack Brofman, MPP'16

In its Fall 2019 issue, The Bond Buyer magazine named Jack Brofman, MPP’16, now Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the City of Chicago, as one of the 28 Rising Stars in the municipal finance industry.

“Jack Brofman was an incredible student and an obvious rising star, even before The Bond Buyer noticed,” said Michael Belsky, AM’83, executive director of the Center for Municipal Finance at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. “Chicago faces substantial financial challenges, but it is better off thanks to Jack’s service in city government.”

7. Meghana Chandra, MPP’18

Meghana Chandra MPP'18
Meghana Chandra, MPP'18

Through the Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), Chandra and Mariana Botero, a joint Harris and Booth School of Business student, co-founded Shakti, a startup employing an easy-to-access phone voice response system to empower women in India, with varying levels of literacy, to gain access to legal services in cases of rape, assault, and domestic violence.

8. CLA Alumni

Enjoying company at the CLA graduation in 2019.
A new cohort of CLA graduates outside of the Keller Center.

Civic Leadership Academy Fellows are working in Chicago and Cook County government and nonprofits, and 2019 was a watershed year for the CLA, which is now part of Harris’ newly-formed Center for Effective Government. With its first aldermanmultiple appointments in the new Lightfoot administration at the City, partnerships for a healthier lifestyle and community, collaboration to make sports a tool for community growth, and opportunities to build skills and find gainful employment, CLA continues to grow in scope and impact.

We will always remember Jessica Bryar (CLA’17), who passed away in 2019, and who made a difference in the lives of Chicago families – and the CLA family – that will continue to live on.

9. Kelly Suzanne Saulsberry, MPP'13

Kelly Suzanne Saulsberry, MPP’13, has accomplished a lot since graduating from Harris. A public servant, civic leader, and civil rights champion, she has worked in the Chicago Mayor's Office and now shapes policy for the city’s Commission on Human Relations.

10. Stanley Ndambakuwa, MAIDP’19

Stanley Ndambakuwa

The First Annual Girls’ Education Conference took place on May 17, 2019, organized through a collaboration between Stanley Ndambakuwa, MAIDP’19, and YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. Through this event, Ndambakuwa brought to fruition a long-time hope: creating an opportunity for people to come together and discuss how to support girls’ education across the world.

11. Nikki Wegner, MPP’13

Nikki Wegner MPP'13
Nikki Wegner, MPP'13

Wegner works for Deloitte doing public sector consulting, working with state and local governments on how to improve delivery of health and human service programs.

12. Pedro Gerson, MPP/JD’14

Pedro Gerson MPP/JD'14
Pedro Gerson, MPP/JD'14

Why does crime happen, and can systems be put in place so that it doesn’t? That is the question Pedro Gerson, MPP/JD'14, and his colleagues at The Bronx Defenders address daily. Bail reform, property forfeiture laws, and human trafficking are some of the policy initiatives that The Bronx Defenders have tackled. And, while still on the front lines, helping one client at a time, Gerson’s already thinking about other big-picture policy issues. In his opinion, one of the most significant issues is reexamining the necessity of prisons.

13. The Class of 2008

A memorial to Nick Pitzen, MPP'08, sits at on 60th Street outside of the Keller Center.

At the Keller Center, the new home to the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, something special sits at the gateway to the school. To many, it may just look like a nice place to take a seat. But to the class of 2008, and to those who look closely, it commemorates a beloved friend who embodied the Harris spirit before his passing away six years ago: Nick Pitzen, MPP’08.

14. Paul Berry, MPP’15

Paul Berry MPP'15

Berry serves as the Director of Data Intelligence for Aegis Mobile, a global leader in digital optimization and security solutions. He and his team provide tactical and strategic guidance, as well as monitoring of telecommunications networks to prevent intrusion, unauthorized use of data, and any other activities that might threaten an individual’s data or violate their reasonable expectation of privacy. Always “active” in public service, Berry has become more politically active in recent years, having served as a data analyst for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

15. Colette Ashley, MSESP’18


Colette Ashley
Colette Ashley

Having coauthored two published papers by 2018, Ashley now works for Environmental Resources Management. As part of the due diligence/mergers and acquisitions team in Washington, DC, she ensures that property transfers and purchases follow all necessary environmental regulations.

16. The Love Birds

Charles “Charlie” Parekh, MPP’00, and Shana Whitehead, MPP’00.

In celebration of Valentine’s Day 2019, a few of Harris’ favorite alumni couples shared details of their love stories and updates on their shared lives since graduation. Some of these couples arrived at Harris together, only to grow more in love during the years they spent holed up at Harris and exploring Hyde Park; others met crossing paths in shared classes or school activities, and they’ve been together ever since. All have gone on to apply their educations in policy, leaving their own mark on the world, hand in hand.  

Previous 2019 Year in Review Articles