Jefferson uses the skills he gained from his Harris MPP as an Associate Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Headshot of Nathan Jefferson
Nathan Jefferson

An Associate Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Nathan Jefferson, MPP20, said the Master of Public Policy curriculum at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy has set him up for success. “I work on the Current Economic Conditions Team, conducting surveys and economic research on regional conditions in our district, so the data background I gained at Harris has been incredibly useful. Not only does most of my work require [the coding languages] R and Stata, but Harris’ approach to problem-solving frameworks and research has proven invaluable.”

Jefferson said his initial interest in economics was coupled with an interest in Latin America. “I suspect that was influenced by my parents’ professions. My mother taught high school Spanish before becoming a school administrator, and my dad is an economist.” 

After graduating with a BA in economics from Pomona College in Claremont, California, Jefferson applied for a position with The Business Year, an international provider of business data and a publisher of annual trade and investment information. He served as the publication’s editor covering Peru and relocated to Lima to interview the country’s business and civic leaders, study and analyze economic and political trends, and create a written overview of Peru used by businesses and governments around the world.

“However,” Jefferson said, “after 18 months of studying, analyzing, and writing about economic trends in Latin America, I realized I wanted to learn even more about the policy questions I was writing about. That’s when I began to think about pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree.” 

Jefferson’s interest in economics has long been linked to exploring the actions governments and nongovernmental institutions can take to benefit the greatest number of people—which is what drew him to a public policy degree. “Public policy offered unique opportunities to draw knowledge from various fields to answer a wide range of problems. Plus, public policy is deeply grounded in practical issues and is, by its very nature, flexible and open to new ideas.”

Jefferson said he first heard about the Harris School of Public Policy while researching poverty in developing countries through studies conducted by The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts. “Then, when I started talking to former professors and current colleagues about my desire to go back to graduate school, Harris Public Policy came up repeatedly as a good fit for my goals. After doing more research, I saw Harris offered the best possible academic experience in an MPP program. The emphasis on quantitative training, and the fact that the program provided graduates with the tools to succeed across a number of fields, really stood out,” he said.

Jefferson also said that Harris’ position in the wider University of Chicago community and the opportunities it offered as part of a major research institution were invaluable: “The research opportunities and the professional networks at Harris are difficult, if not impossible, to find elsewhere.”

Attending Admitted Student Day, Jefferson said, sealed the deal. “Admitted Students Day gave me a better understanding of what Harris was and how the community functioned. I’d never been to the University of Chicago campus, but attending Harris’ faculty panels and meeting with the Admissions team convinced me it was the right place for me. Reflecting on where I am in my career, I can see that it definitely was.”