Ryan is seeking a surer route to help cities survive climate change.
Ryan Morgan, Class of 2020
Ryan Morgan, Class of 2020

Since his elementary school days in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Ryan Morgan has been fascinated by politics, concerned about the environment, and aware that all of us have the power to make a difference in the world.

“I’ve been passionate about government and public policy for as long as I can remember. As early as primary school, I followed current events and thought about what implications they might have for my small world. By the time I was in high school, I began to home in on the policy areas that I wanted to make a difference in.”

For example, when he was 16, Ryan pro-actively proposed a recycling program in his community to support a greener environment. He also created a website and distributed flyers to educate his neighbors about the issue of climate change in an effort to persuade them to exchange their incandescent light bulbs for more energy-efficient LED bulbs.

“I realized then that taking even small steps can make an amazing difference. Later, at Columbia University, I organized and led student volunteers in campaigns for progressive candidates running in Virginia and Ohio. We were a relatively small group—about a hundred students—but we spoke to tens of thousands of undecided voters, many of them face-to-face. 

I feel strongly that those conversations helped impact the outcome of those elections, our government, and the lives of citizens all over the country.”

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Columbia University, Ryan worked in Philadelphia for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) as a special projects engineer on the Climate Resiliency Program. The program was created to help SEPTA adapt its infrastructure to better manage threats posed by climate change.

A year later, Ryan accepted a position as Recovery and Resiliency Fellow/Capital Program Analyst with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City. The group was tasked with guiding the development and execution of strategies to support the city’s transit resiliency program and Hurricane Sandy recovery projects. He also contributed to efforts to embed resiliency in the recurring MTA NYCT 20-year needs planning process.

Eventually, his work in planning for the future of public transportation led him to Harris.

“I started to develop an understanding of the intersectional nature of urban policy, which prompted my desire to attend graduate school in public policy. I was impressed by Harris after seeing some of the interesting work that Urban Labs are doing in New York and Chicago.”

Ryan believes that Harris will help him reach the right answers to multi-layered problems by enabling him to develop evidence-based policies that can be proven to work.

“I want to delve deeper into urban policy research and analysis in Chicago, perhaps at an urban planning organization, with an eye towards urban resiliency and sustainability that considers environmental, economic, and social impacts. Given these goals, I feel that Harris and the University of Chicago offer an unparalleled environment for the study of complex urban policy challenges, allowing students to take an intersectional perspective that cuts across disciplines and considers the implications of politics and institutions.”