Alumni of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Evening Master’s Program (EMP) working for public safety policy reform focus much of their energies on being attentive to outcomes for both community residents and those re-entering the community.

Through their EMP coursework, Harris students acquire a data-driven toolkit they can use to create measurable impact for those who have encountered the criminal justice system.

We spoke with three EMP alumni to better understand how their experience has prepared them to tackle the complex challenges they face in their respective roles. While they work in different capacities across different agencies in public safety, each has been able to apply what they learned in the program to better the lives of those that interact with the justice system.

Michael Milstein, AM'21

Michael Milstein, AM’21, is the Deputy Director of Community Policing for the Chicago Police Department. There, he engages with communities across the city to identify opportunities for policy reform to improve citizens’ interactions with police.

“I was looking to broaden my skillset to include analytical skills that would allow me to approach complex problems,” said Milstein. “Policy is really the driving force behind what I do every day, and the EMP has given me new techniques for taking problems apart and devising reasonable solutions.”

Prior to joining the EMP, Milstein worked in the mayoral administrations of both Rahm Emanuel and Lori Lightfoot as a public safety policy analyst and advisor. “When I joined the mayor’s office in 2016, they asked if I would be willing to work on public safety policy. I naturally gravitated towards the work, because it was important to me to deal with issues around policing and how law enforcement interacts with the public.”

As an Advisor on Policy and Safety Operations in Mayor Lightfoot’s administration, Milstein was particularly engaged in the relationships between police and the transgender and mental health communities. “I helped to bring advocates from the transgender community together with CPD to look at trans-individual policy. And I also launched the Crisis Intervention Advisory Committee, which was made up of about 70 individuals that drafted recommendations to better support the mental health community.”

Milstein originally had no interest in politics or policy. “It wasn’t until I got to college that I started taking an interest. I was really inspired by the Obama campaign in 2008, and ever since then I became more and more involved in public service,” he said. Milstein earned his bachelor’s in political science from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He began his career in public service as an intern for US Representative Mike Quigley, AM’85, during his senior year as an undergraduate. Quigley has represented Illinois’’ fifth congressional district in Congress since 2009.

When asked about his experience in the EMP, Milstein said, “The entire program was well thought out. Even though I was working full time, I never felt overwhelmed by the coursework. As someone who works in a field where tensions can sometimes run high, I was especially grateful that the program was manageable.” When asked what classes he found most useful to him, he had one answer: “Leadership and Negotiations, taught by Professor John Burrows. I use negotiations all the time in my current role. Even beyond just learning how to be a better negotiator, that course taught me how to listen more intently. I want to address public concerns, so it’s important to me that we work with communities to bring them into the reform process. Reform is difficult, but it’s always worth the fight because it’s a good cause.”

Rachel Getz, AM'21

Like Milstein, Rachel Getz, AM’21, who serves as Program Manager and Entrepreneurship Lead at Cook County Sherriff’s Department, found Burrows’ negotiations course immediately applicable in her role. “Negotiations is something I use a lot in my life, and that course in particular taught me how to be more creative in my negotiating approach.”

Getz is responsible for developing and executing vocational re-entry programs that support those who have encountered the criminal justice system as they return to the community. “I came up with the idea of creating an entrepreneurship program. I developed a 12-week program that focuses on building job preparedness and soft skills. Participants are divided into teams, and together they form a business plan.”

Getz said her career trajectory underwent many changes before she began working at Cook County Sherriff’s Department. “I received my bachelor’s at American University in computer science and began my career in marketing and advertising, and then in 2018 I earned a Master of Science in law from Northwestern University with a concentration in law, business, and technology. While I was in that program, I interned at the Cook County Jail. I’ve always had a passion for criminal justice reform, and that internship not only reinforced my passion but also pushed me towards roles in government. That’s how I started working for the Cook County Sherriff.”

Getz was attracted to a degree in policy because of the prospect of creating lasting impact. “After working in my role for a couple of years, I realized I wanted to do more policy-centric work. For me, it’s all about the larger impact, making change at the institutional level. I’m most interested in the lasting change I can make.”

Since completing the program, Getz has been selected to represent the Department in numerous partnerships with other community organizations. “The EMP has allowed me to be more tapped into some of the policies at Cook County Jail. There’s a lot of interesting policy work around pretrial matters that is happening right now, and being a representative for the Sherriff’s office on these initiatives has been great. I’ve been chosen a lot more for these types of roles since completing the EMP.”

In addition to Negotiations, Getz also points to a class in program evaluation as critical to her EMP experience. “We are often asked to evaluate our impact at the jail, and the class on program evaluation that I took has given me a new way to think about how we should measure the extent of our program’s impact.”

Lastly, Getz points to her cohort and the broader Harris community as one of the highlights of the program. “Class discussions were always dynamic because people were involved in so many different fields and came from so many different perspectives.” Getz even learned about the program in greater detail thanks to conversations she had with her current boss and fellow EMP alum, Ronald Howard. “It was great because he was able to tell me more about the program when I was interested in applying,” she said.

Ronald Howard, AM'19

“I told her the program was challenging but incredibly rewarding,” said Ronald Howard, AM’19, the Director of Inmate Programs at Cook County Department of Corrections. “Rachel is an amazingly hard worker.”

Howard’s role puts him at a critical juncture in the Department’s mission to better serve those who interact with the justice system. “My current role allows me to have an outside, elevated lens where I can focus on the mission statement of our department. I make sure things like our budget priorities are in line with our mission and will generate positive impact.”

Howard earned his bachelor’s in sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a native of Chicago, he has always felt an obligation to serve the communities he frequented growing up. “I knew coming out of college I wanted to make an impact in any way, shape, or form. I felt like public safety was one of the best ways I could make that impact.”

Howard has assumed numerous positions and taken on myriad responsibilities within Cook County Sherriff’s Department. “I started in Youth Services, where I focused mostly on education and engagement. I then became an Education Coordinator, overseeing the implementation of high school services across all Department divisions. And prior to starting the EMP, I was a Deputy Director, where I tracked program metrics and maintained accountability of our project portfolio.”

When considering where to go for his master’s, Howard said, “It felt like a no brainer to go to UChicago. I was looking for a program that was flexible yet still challenging, and the EMP allowed me to continue working while pursuing a degree that has accelerated my career. The EMP challenged me to new heights.”

The return on his investment, he said, has been immediately noticeable. “Before I started the program, I was a Deputy Director managing a team of about 4-6 people. Since completing the EMP, I’ve been promoted twice, and my team has grown to about 30 people.”

Howard credits three classes in particular that have allowed him to be a stronger leader and critical thinker. “First, Leadership and Negotiations taught by John Burrows. That class taught me the importance of creating win-win situations, and it’s something I use all the time. Second would be Cost-Benefit Analysis. It taught me to recognize biases within policy and forced me to use technical skills to consider whether policies should be implemented. And third, Public Finance. It taught me how to prioritize budgets. These three classes allow me to do my job effectively from all angles.”

As a dedicated public servant, Howard is always striving to ensure that the department is progressing in its mission. “My current role allows me to impact whether or not someone leaves the jail with re-entry skills. It allows me to expose individuals to new opportunities they never had before. My hope is that what we are doing at Cook County Jail can be used as a national model for vocational and educational training.”

Although Milstein, Getz, and Howard all serve different roles to improve public safety throughout the city of Chicago, each has been able to utilize the skills they learned in the EMP program to increase their individual impact for the city of Chicago.

Ranjan Daniels, Senior Associate Dean of Student Recruitment and Global Outreach at Harris, said, “As someone who grew up in Chicago keenly aware of the public safety issues in the city, I’m not surprised that our EMP students are finding, creating, and implementing policies that best serve the community—at all levels. I look forward to the continued success our Evening Master’s Program alumni have in making public safety equitable throughout Chicago.”

Since beginning in Winter 2018, the EMP has launched more than eight cohorts. Students are eligible for scholarships when they submit their application, no additional application is needed. Learn more in our Admissions Blog. For more information, email Jessica Gagle, Director of Student Recruitment at, attend an upcoming event, or request information on our website.