A Portfolio Manager in the Inclusive Economy Lab, Slaughter is using his MPP skillset to improve higher education outcomes in Chicago.
Headshot of Marvin Slaughter
Marvin Slaughter

Slaughter’s passion for improving higher education began during Illinois’ years-long state budget impasse. Slaughter was a freshman at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in Spring 2016. At the time, funding chaos reigned over the state’s public universities due to the budget impasse.

A UIC Honors College member on a full scholarship, Slaughter could have tuned out what was happening. He excelled as both a scholar and a student leader among his peers at the Honors College, and he was one of only 40 who received the highly competitive UIC President’s Award Program scholarship aimed at enhancing campus diversity.

Watching and experiencing the results of the state budget impasse inspired him to co-found the UIC Student Advocacy Coalition. The coalition mobilized other students to launch a targeted social media and letter-writing campaign to legislators advocating for university funding. Slaughter and his co-founders eventually headed to the Illinois state capitol in Springfield and made their case directly to legislators.

His efforts earned him a 2018 Newman Civic Fellowship from the nonprofit Campus Compact. “At that moment, I was a public servant,” he said, “and I knew from then on I would dedicate my life to advocating for and empowering marginalized communities.”

After earning a BA from UIC with a double major in political science and economics in Spring 2019, Slaughter joined the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy for the Master of Public Policy program in Fall 2019.

Slaughter said he applied to several public policy programs, but had his heart set on Harris, especially after attending a diversity recruitment event Harris hosted at the UIC Honors College.  

“Hearing how the University of Chicago had changed several of the panelists’ lives, the skills they were learning, and the quantitative background that they were getting—all of those things were icing on the cake,” Slaughter said.

Now, Slaughter is using the skills he honed at Harris in his role as a Portfolio Manager at the University of Chicago Inclusive Economy Lab. “I collaborate with amazing nonprofit partners and the Chicago Community Colleges [CCC] to generate evidence that will lead to greater economic opportunity. My portfolio of programs deals most intently with understanding how CCC serves its population of students in completing their educational goals around certificate and associate degree attainment and transferring to four-year colleges.”

One project very close to Slaughter is the One Million Degrees program, which accelerates community college students’ progress on career pathways to economic mobility. “I am currently working on a randomized control trial for One Million Degrees to evaluate the efficacy of the program's approach to improving graduation rates and preparing students for success in the workforce,” he said. In addition, Slaughter is also overseeing a randomized control trial on social belonging and an evaluation on enrollment patterns and completion rates for the Chicago Community Colleges, among other projects.

When asked what Harris experiences he leans into at the Inclusive Economy Lab, Slaughter said two courses in particular have stayed with him: Intergenerational Mobility Theory with Instructor Aleksandra Lukina and Inequality, Household Finance, and Tax Policy with Associate Professor Damon Jones. “Both courses,” Slaughter said, “culminated in a unique understanding of the likelihood of people of color, and more specifically Black Americans, to experience income shocks that can significantly impact their ability to reach expected outcomes. The roles of income and wealth are so large in many of the disparities we witness, and these courses highlighted the ways that wealth and inequality originated and are perpetuated in systemic ways. I take the knowledge from these experiences into every meeting I attend.”