A look back at the 2019 Alumni Awards, which took place during Harris Connect Weekend.

A Dinner to Remember

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

Harris Connect Weekend 2019 coincided with the grand opening of Harris Public Policy’s state-of-the-art new home, the Keller Center, and included workshops, updates on important school initiatives, and the Alumni Awards Dinner. At the dinner, which took place in a specially-constructed celebration tent behind the newly-opened Keller Center, 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.

More than 100 alumni from around the globe attended the 2019 Alumni awards dinner during the Harris Connect Weekend.

A Lifetime of Impact

Michelle M. Garcia addresses the crowd after receiving the Career Achievement Award.

The Career Achievement Award is presented to an alumnus who has served as a significant leader in the public, private, or nonprofit sector, creating meaningful positive change within their institution and society. Previous recipients include the founder of a nonprofit, a United States congressman, and the former Administrator of the United States General Services Administration. With Garcia’s long standing involvement advocating on behalf of victims of stalking, sexual assault, and domestic and dating violence, she has made meaningful positive change in a vitally important field and helped countless people in difficult situations.

Garcia started her work in victim services years before her arrival at Harris, working as a program specialist with the US Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime. After earning an MPP, she moved to the Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime for almost a decade, serving as a director for over nine years. She is now the director of the District of Columbia Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants where she coordinates District-funded programs that serve crime victims, prevents crime, and improves the administration of justice on behalf of victims and those involved in criminal justice. 

“It’s incredible meaningful to be able to be recognized for the work that I do,” Garcia said as she accepted the award. “I think about how profoundly lucky I am in my current position to be doing the work that I am not only deeply passionate about, but where I actually use the tools that I learned at Harris every single day.”

A Rising Star

Jacob Plummer addresses the crowd after accepting the 2019 Rising Star Award.

After Garcia left the stage, Plummer was then presented with the 2019 Rising Star Award, an award which acknowledges a recent alumnus (within 15 years of graduation) who had distinguished himself early in his career, creating a positive impact in the execution of public policy. Former recipients include a Chilean congressman, an author, and a former White House advisor. Plummer is the CEO of Health Data Link,* which allows hospitals to share patient records, accelerating the process of delivering care to patients and expediting medical research. Before starting HDL, he ran a business development in the healthcare industry. He also serves as the president of the Foundation Board of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and was a 2017 Emerging Leader Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“I’ve been able to see firsthand how many great new policy students are coming to Harris,” he said. “Harris gave me insight into where government can work and where it cannot, where it is unclear whether it can or cannot, and how to think about the costs of policy interventions, not only the benefits.” He said this award is particularly meaningful due to his experience as a mentor with the Harris Mentor program.

Know a remarkable alum?

Learn more about this year’s and previous award winners and make a nomination! Alumni Award nominations are accepted year-round.

*Note: Plummer is now General Manager at Datavant.