U.S. Department of Energy Federal Project Director, Dan Misch, supplements his work with skills he’s developing in the Evening Master's Program.
Dan Misch
Dan Misch

Swimming first drew Dan Misch to water as a child, and submarines kept him there as an adult.

Misch’s success as a young distance backstroker gave him the confidence to apply to the United States Naval Academy. While there, Misch excelled in mathematics, pushed himself to learn physics, and he eventually chose to pursue the Navy’s nuclear program. He was commissioned as an ensign upon graduation and moved to Bremerton, Wash., to live and work on a submarine.

“The amount of responsibility they give you as a young person is unreal,” Misch says. “I was 24 and working with other young sailors operating a reactor on a submarine hundreds of feet underwater and thousands of miles from land.”

As he began his military career, Misch found himself living a life of secrecy under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gay and lesbian military members were banned from serving openly. As a gay man, Misch couldn’t come out to his colleagues. 

“I missed out on so much when the policy was in place,” Misch says. “I was closed off, and I wasn’t fully myself.”

After graduating from college, Misch owed five more years of service, during which he questioned people’s opposition to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He remembers when the policy was repealed by Barack Obama in 2011, his last year of military service.

“Opponents of the repeal said it would affect unit cohesion, when in fact, in my personal experience it was the opposite. It raises the question: ‘Says who?’” Misch says. “I use that as inspiration to seek my challenges. If I could do that then, then what could I do now?”

Today, Misch is a federal project director for the U.S. Department of Energy at Argonne National Laboratory. He examines how investments in research and development impact national security, but he was still looking to challenge himself and grow.

Misch decided to attend the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Evening Master’s Program to diversify his toolkit and supplement his work with skills that would allow him to analyze problems from different perspectives. He says the Harris experience “gives us the tools to separate fact from fiction.”

He says he enjoys the diversity of the Evening Master’s Program cohort and continues to look for ways he can use what he learns to help him make more informed decisions.

“I have had a highly technical operational history, and now I am better at asking questions and not taking things at face value,” Misch says. “The Evening Master’s Program at Harris really is changing the way I think.”