May 27, 2020 News Joycelyn Winnecke 93 percent of the inaugural cohort responding to career surveys said they were promoted or started a new job within a year of completing the EMP. One year after graduation, their salaries had increased an average of $18,000. Ali Fendrick, AM'19Of the many reasons Ali Fendrick, AM’19, loves her new job, chief among them is this: “I am now in a place where I can have a real influence on education policy.’’ Shortly after completing the Evening Master’s Program at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, Fendrick joined Chicago Public Schools as Policy Program Manager. She oversees the program that allows grade-skipping and acceleration in reading and math, working to ensure a system that is equitable and accessible to all. Fendrick was part of the inaugural cohort for the Evening Master’s Program and, like many of her classmates, she credits the program for advancing her career. In fact, 93 percent of the inaugural cohort responding to career surveys said they were promoted or started a new job within a year of completing the EMP. One year after graduation, their salaries had increased an average of $18,000. Fendrick is certain the Harris degree was integral in securing her job – and just as important, she said, the curriculum prepared her to do it well. “All of the classes shaped the way I think about policy and approach difficult situations,’’ Fendrick said. “When we have a decision to make, I am thinking of the cost-benefit analysis. How is this going to affect the teachers? How is this going to affect the kids? What are the pros and cons?’’ These days much of her work is contingency planning around COVID-19, adjusting policies and procedures immediately and making plans and precautions for the longer term. A psychology major at the University of Michigan, Fendrick worked in Miami as part of Teach for America and then moved to Chicago to be closer to her family in Ann Arbor. She was Outreach Director at Educators for Excellence when she came to Harris. “I am now in a place where I can have a real influence on education policy.’’ - Ali Fendrick, AM’19 Harris Public Policy Senior Lecturer John BurrowsReflecting on specific knowledge she took from the master’s program, Fendrick points to the Leadership and Negotiations course taught by John Burrows. It was the first class she took at Harris, and the first to come into play as she interviewed for her current position. Burrows was “animated and passionate and smart,’’ driving home the point that women often do not negotiate aggressively for themselves. “I had never negotiated anything -- but I negotiated my salary and my start date. I was so excited, I emailed to thank him,’’ Fendrick said. Fendrick learned a lot from her classmates, too. “It was a gift to be surrounded by so many smart people with such a wealth of experience,’’ she said, noting that a Harris classmate is now one of her closest friends. Daniel Tollefson, AM’19Daniel Tollefson, AM’19, chose the Harris program in part for that very reason. “I don’t think I could have met a better cast of people,’’ he said, noting that the group included a retired bank president, a drug counselor who had transitioned to technology, and a charter school chief of staff. Tollefson also changed jobs shortly after completely the Evening Master’s Program. He was promoted to Special Assistant to the President and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust. That puts him in a key role at a crucial time for The Trust -- helping to reshape the organization as it embarks on a new and ambitious mission, to close the racial wealth gap in the Chicago region. So monumental is the mission, in fact, that “we had to rethink internally the kind of organization we needed to be,’’ Tollefson said. He has helped to establish both quantitative and qualitative measures for The Trust, a $3.3 billion foundation that gives away approximately $350 million in a typical year. “We really need to build that muscle to be able to make the case for how we spend the money,’’ said Tollefson. “I don’t think I could have met a better cast of people,’’ Tollefson said, noting that the group included a retired bank president, a drug counselor who had transitioned to technology, and a charter school chief of staff. This year was already mapped as one of significant change for The Trust – and then the pandemic hit. Tollefson and his colleagues developed an urgent action plan. The Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund launched on March 16 in partnership with the United Way of Metro Chicago and the City of Chicago. By early May the fund had raised nearly $31 million and awarded 300 grants to organizations providing emergency housing, health care, food and cash assistance. The Harris community has helped during these intense and fast-moving days. As a member of the Harris Alumni Council, Tollefson regularly talks with people in a wide variety of industries across the country. “Meetings provide a time to pick each other’s brains to see how different sectors respond to the crisis,’’ Tollefson said. “It’s a chance for me personally to hear the questions and tradeoffs folks are weighing across the country.’’ Tollefson grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota, earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin, and worked in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park for Teach for America. It was a powerful experience, he said, opening his eyes to the obstacles created by poverty. “After seven years, I began to see predictable challenges my students and their families were facing,’’ leading him toward a policy career through which he could have greater impact, he said. From the Harris program he sought the quantitative skills to complement his demonstrated “soft skills’’ – writing, listening, communicating, working with people. “Not that I wanted to be a data scientist, but I did want to gain a good understanding of data, and to be able to speak fluently about its impact in shaping policy.’’ The quantitative mooring of Harris “hit me in the face right away. Math is weaved into everything in every way.’’ Gaining that quantitative lens and the language around it means that “people at The Trust look at me as someone who they rely on, and that’s such a good tool to have.’’ The instructors reignited Tollefson’s love of learning. “You hear University of Chicago and you think ‘quantitative’ and you have the sense that people working there are brilliant. Then you get there and you find these are truly brilliant people. And it’s not just them, but what they’re reading and what they put before you.’’ Natalie Foster, AM’19Natalie Foster, AM’19, shares that view, looking back on the Harris program and counting these results: a policy job she loves, confidence with data and numbers, and a network of like-minded people. She is Program Analyst in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, office of Mathematica, a public policy research firm. “For me, there is a very direct line between having the degree and the position I have today,’’ said Foster. “I have no doubt that the Harris degree and the University of Chicago credential were helpful in getting me through the door.’’ Foster is from New Zealand, where she worked in the public health system and in health policy. She moved to Chicago with her husband six years ago, struggling to secure a policy-related job before completing the EMP. Foster keeps three textbooks on her desk. She says that demonstrates the relevancy of the program. One is a book about public finance and budgeting – useful nearly every day in her work managing budgets for federal contracts. The second is about program evaluation, “more aspirational,’’ she says, one she will use as the research arm of her career develops. And the third is about climate change. “This one is to remind me why we’re doing what we’re doing. It reflects a lot of what we learned – how to use economic analysis to diagnose and solve real-world problems.’’ Foster keeps three textbooks on her desk. She says that demonstrates the relevancy of the program. The part-time nature of the program led to quality relationships. “You develop a network of people, all in similar positions juggling school, work, and life. We are going through this together and can remind each other, ‘We can do this.’’’ The support was vital. Foster remembers how poorly she did on the first assignment in the first economics class. Anxious and upset, she went to office hours with instructor Jim Leitzel and the TA, Katherine Baird, now a full-time lecturer at Harris. “They very kindly and patiently told me where I went wrong, spending the time to walk me through it. I went on to do very well in that class – in no small part because Jim and Katherine were so very good at what they did and were willing to take the time to support each student.’’ Assistant Instructional Professor Katherine BairdFoster was impressed with support she received from the Harris Career Development Office (CDO). “I know my resume became 10-fold better, as did my interviewing skills and elevator pitch.’’ CDO organized a Job Club as the inaugural cohort approached graduation to help propel job searches. Six students met once a week to share experiences and to hold one other accountable. “Job searching is easy to put off, and it can be isolating. Doing this as part of a group was very helpful.” “Four months out, all six of us could raise our hands and say we’d gotten a new job.’’ Get Involved Join this community of changemakers – start your application or request more information today.