Marvin Slaughter’s piece “Reparations Is the Only Choice” speaks volumes about the reparations debate in the United States – and about the revitalization of the Chicago Policy Review, where it was published.

The student-run publication at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy has freshened its approach and upped its game to attract more diverse writers and a broader audience. A print edition with the year’s best work is being resurrected after 21 years.

A graphic published alongside Marvin Slaughter's piece, “Reparations Is the Only Choice”.

Slaughter’s article illustrates changes implemented by Editor-in-Chief Jake Interrante alongside Akerah Mackey and Mark Sheppard, all MPP Class of 2021. Mackey is Director of Equity & Inclusion and Sheppard is Data Editor, both new roles at the Chicago Policy Review.

Spurred on by an impromptu classroom debate, one in which voices were raised and some of the opinions shared were not necessarily informed by fact or history, Slaughter, MPP Class of 2021, began writing about reparations on Facebook. Active in national and local movements supporting reparations, he was already a student of the topic.

At the same time, Interrante and Sheppard were getting their sea legs at the helm of the CPR. It was summer 2020 and their first move was to launch the Delta Project, a series aimed at encouraging Harris students to write about current events and public policy.

“We defined it broadly: This can include anything that is a major change happening in society right now,’’ Interrante said. “The pandemic and its effects on public policy. The George Floyd protests and the uprisings and what will come from that. Huge changes to the economy.’’

Marvin Slaughter, MPP Class of 2021

Slaughter was doing exactly that with his reparations work – just not for CPR.

“I would see Marvin writing these massive threads, 300- to 500-word threads, and I’m like, he could knit three of these together and it would be a fantastic CPR article,’’ Interrante said. “We knew it could be the flagship piece of the Delta Project.’’

The fact that Slaughter had never even considered applying to write for CPR was a fundamental problem, in Interrante’s view.

“Why is someone writing all this awesome stuff and yet evidently doesn’t feel like CPR is the place for it? I saw that as a failing. I wanted to fix that.’’

Sheppard recruited Slaughter to be a CPR contributor and pledged to work with him on data visualization. Mackey would be his editor, a draw since they had been close friends since meeting in Jumpstart, the Harris math program for incoming students.

“Mark pitched the Delta Project as an excellent opportunity to write about a policy issue that I’m extremely passionate about,’’ Slaughter said.  “I thought this was a good opportunity to bring it more into the mainstream.’’

That was important to Slaughter. From his Analytical Politics class to presidential primary debates, he saw confusion and ignorance fueling the reparations conversation.

“I heard so many terrible arguments that I thought that apparently people have no clue about American history,’’ Slaughter said. “How can you have a conversation about policy and evaluate policy if you don’t understand the past?’’

While Ta-Nehisi Coates had written the powerful qualitative argument for reparations, Slaughter said, “I wanted to give the economic argument, to bring some of that language on economics theory into the mainstream.’’

Slaughter’s piece explored what a federal reparations policy might cost according to three methods of calculation. Extensive graphics helped tell the story. He focused on research by Dr. William J. (Sandy) Darity Jr., the Duke University economist considered the leading scholar on reparations.

CPR Executive Editor Ishan Nagpal, a public defender before coming to Harris, was assigned to the article. “He was the perfect editor for this piece,’’ Interrante said. “Not only is he highly conscious of civil rights issues, he also approaches editing with the rigor of an attorney, and that was important for sharpening Marvin’s core argument.’’

After it was published, Slaughter shared the article with his contacts across the reparations movement, and then Darity stepped in to comment and share with his 42,000 Twitter followers. The article went viral.

Darity was so impressed with Slaughter and Sheppard that he enlisted them for a research project at Duke. The Journal of Economic Perspectives plans to feature the article.

That is precisely what CPR strives for as it creates a new brand, Mackey said. “Marvin’s success laid the blueprint for how we want to move forward: A student is featured as an author and that leads to these extra opportunities.’’

Akerah Mackey

Mackey is working to ensure that more students of color, LBGTQ students, and students from different religions contribute to CPR.

“I strategically seek out students like Marvin and students who look like me, people with completely different ideas and perspective.’’

Mackey, a second-year MPP student, joined CPR as Senior Editor for the Culture section. A month in, she recommended that the Culture section be scrapped.

“We’re in the 21st century. A culture section doesn’t have a real place in a policy review, or really any general paper that understands the complexities in which ethics, race, and general news, and information go together,’’ she said.

In other words, CPR should recognize that policy issues intersect with issues of culture all the time, Mackey advised. That means a piece on the racial implications of an economic policy, for example, should go in the Economics section rather than in a Culture section.

Interrante appreciated her view and her strategic approach. He invited her to join the Executive Board as they decided where CPR should go and how to get there.

Mackey grew up in the Compton neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles. She majored in political science and religious studies at Willamette University in Oregon. She was the first Black woman student body president, a platform she used to ensure that equity and inclusion goals were included in the school’s centennial strategic plan.

For CPR, she has created one- and five-year strategic plans with metrics to measure success. Diversity of voice and audience is central.

Editor-in-Chief Jake Interrante

Interrante is from Malden, Mass. After earning an undergraduate degree from UChicago, he worked in Washington, D.C., as an intern at The Hill newspaper and at community development non-profits. Returning to Boston, he worked at the Massachusetts Housing Partnership.

“I got to a point where I just wanted to learn more,’’ Interrante said, explaining why he came to Harris. “I realized I didn’t have some of the quantitative skills I wanted for the rest of my career – the R skills and the coding skills.’’

He was Senior Editor for the Law and Politics section before becoming Editor-in-Chief.

Slaughter came to Harris from the University of Illinois-Chicago where he studied political science and economics, motivated by conditions in the African-American neighborhoods in which he grew up on the South Side and in the South Suburbs of Chicago.

“I saw that as a community, policy isn’t necessarily our thing – and I wanted to figure out how to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,’’ Slaughter said.

To him that means learning about economic development, politics, and power – “so I can disseminate that information amongst my peers and the people I love.’’

The Chicago Policy Review can be found at

At UIC he created a social media campaign, Invest in Me, and co-founded The Student Advocacy Coalition for higher education affordability. One reason he chose Harris was to stay close to his developing network. He intends to run for political office.

Sheppard redesigned the CPR site and elevated use of data visualization, recruiting an editorial team of 11 Harris students to specialize in data visualization.

He is also CPR’s “glue guy,’’ Interrante says, often pulling people together socially.

Mark Sheppard

From the Bay area, Sheppard has a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and master’s degrees from Georgetown and Harris. He works as a TA and RA as he finishes an MPP and tackles pre-doctorial work.

Sheppard believes that quantitative metrics are too often an after-thought for publications, the numbers relegated to endnotes or summary tables.

“I take the craft of data visualization very seriously, because in a very real way, data represents people, sons, daughters, mothers, communities, their hardships, and their hopes,’’ Sheppard said. “Through design and working with the authors, I make a concerted effort to best tell those stories with numbers. ‘’

A Slack channel for communications and Asana for project management have introduced new structure and rigor at CPR. There’s a more intentional editing process and pipeline, helping to increase production to at least two articles a week.

Institutional support has been important, Interrante said.

David Chrisinger

A faculty and staff advisory board was convened by Brandon Kurzweg, Senior Associate Dean of Student Engagement. Among the first he tapped was David Chrisinger, who leads the Harris Writing Program.

Chrisinger helped editors build the content pipeline by directing students in his writing classes to adjust pieces for CPR submission. He also has worked with professors to iterate course writing assignments. Rather than simply writing a policy memo, students might be assigned to choose a topic, identify the audience, and write an op-ed as well as the policy memo.

That approach builds skills important for professional success in addition to potentially generating content for CPR.

“You can have all the data that points to a particular solution, but if you can’t address people’s biases and barriers to reform, or the key stakeholders and want they want, nothing is going to happen with your policy,’’ Chrisinger said.

The more muscular CPR illustrates for prospective students the range of possibilities at Harris.

“It shows that when you come to Harris, you are a top public policy person and you can apply that to whatever you want – to becoming really good at quant or to getting your voice out there,’’ Interrante said.

Chicago Policy Review

An elaborately designed 60-page print edition capturing the best 30 articles of the year will be the icing on the cake for the new CPR. The team hopes it returns annually.

But others will decide, since CPR leadership turns over each year.

They are intent on leaving behind a roadmap and tools to help ensure their progress continues. That has been front of mind since the Executive Board began working on vision and strategy last August.

“One of the first questions we asked was, who do we want to fill these roles after we leave them, and then, how do we structure these roles so that they are set up for success?’’ Mackey said.

Recruiting, culture, retention, and succession have been discussed at nearly every meeting since.

Recalling that the CPR Executive Board she first encountered was predominantly white and male, she said, “We didn’t want that. We don’t want to be the New York Times of policy reviews.

“They’re doing their best, but they are way behind the curve,’’ Mackey said. “We want to be the curve.’’