Harris Public Policy Mentor Program has been selected for the 2017 Outstanding Program Award by the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Commission for Student Involvement.

Only one school nationwide is awarded the exclusive honor, which recognizes the most innovative program conceived by a campus that exceeds expectations in one of four functional areas: fraternity/sorority affairs, organizations/activities, service/service-learning, and leadership. The award is based on student involvement, creativity, and program success, as determined by the achievement of the stated program goals. 

The Harris Mentor Program will be recognized during an awards ceremony at the ACPA annual conference in March 2018.

"Mentorship represents a cornerstone of the Harris approach to professional development,” said Katherine Baicker, Dean and Emmett Dedmon Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.  “Our program connects students with successful practitioners in their field who can offer real-world career advice, and help them channel their aspirations into definable career goals and accomplishments.”  

“Both our mentees and their mentors feel that the program has had a very positive impact on their lives and careers,” Baicker added. 

Established in 1988, the same year the school was founded, the Mentor Program was conceived by Irving B. Harris, who believed that mentorship was fundamental to nurturing more effective leaders.  Since its inception, the program has sought to provide mentorship to every single student at Harris. 

In 2014, this longstanding program was revitalized to accommodate the needs of Harris’ growing student body, which has more than doubled over the past two years.  With the program’s new structure, students benefit from an affinity group based on their individual career interests during their first year, followed by a one-on-one relationship with a mentor in their second year. Mentors have included elected officials, CEOs, executive directors and policy advocates across the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

Mentor/Mentee event


“Though a long-standing feature of the Harris student experience, the program’s innovative new structure has dramatically increased the opportunities for the school to engage with talented mentors and to provide every Harris student an opportunity to receive valuable mentorship,” says program lead and assistant director of student affairs, Andrew Dawson.  “By better understanding the needs of our students, we were able to create experiences that help to nurture the next generation of policy leaders.”

In the three years since the program was restructured to provide both group and one-on-one mentorship, student participation has grown from 40 students per year to 375 in the current academic year.  Mentors empower students to grow professionally. They also provide co-curricular training that is intended to directly apply to their mentee’s academic and professional careers.

“Developing a professional and personal relationship with my mentor who was an expert on leadership provided me with many insights and great support, above and beyond the academic training at Harris,” explained Laura Bergedieck, MPP ’17. “We not only discussed future career opportunities, but also a wide range of topics related to the importance and the challenges of leadership and human interactions in the workforce.  The mentor program was exactly what I was looking for.” 

It’s not only the mentees who benefit.  Marie Trzupek Lynch, MPP ’96 and founder and CEO of Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, not only went through the program as a Harris student herself, but was able to make a game-changing hire through her involvement as a program mentor. She hired her own mentee Allison Ryan Angeloni (MPP ’11) six years ago, who has since risen to a vice-president in her organization. 

“I’m passionate about the Harris mentor program.  I focus with my mentees over the long-term on guiding them through career choices, life as a working parent, balance and networking for success.”  Lynch said. “I want to become the mentor for students that I didn’t always have when I was going through tough times.” 

The program provides alumni and policy professionals a direct avenue to work with graduate students across a variety of policy areas and sectors and volunteer their expertise and experience to Harris Public Policy. 

To learn more about the Harris Mentor Program, click here