Simon aspires to use her MPP skills to improve policy for vulnerable populations.
Headshot of Alex Simon
Alex Simon

Alex Simon, University of Chicago Master of Public Policy Class of 2024, said an experience during her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign really started her on her path towards public policy. "In 2020, as part of my Spanish in the Community class, I began volunteering at the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center [ECIRMAC]. We were one of the first points of contact for immigrant families getting situated in Champaign, and I helped wherever I could: translating government forms into Spanish, helping community members apply for government benefits, and even playing with young kids while their parents met with counselors. That experience opened my eyes to the lack of resources available to immigrant families and motivated me toward the public service space. Professor Ann Abbott, who taught the course, also challenged the class to think about how we can put our education and language abilities to work, and I began thinking about policy and immigration law."

Later that year, Simon joined the Karat School Project [KSP] as a grant writing intern. "I worked on a team of all women, and we applied for grants to purchase educational materials, meals, and other necessities for women, children, and KSP students in the Ivory Coast. I was able to work closely with the organization’s founder and CEO, who was inspiring in her altruistic dedication to helping those in need. It was my first in-depth exposure to issues in another country, which definitely broadened my worldview.”

Her experiences with ECIRMAC and KSP, Simon said, showed her the fallout of poor policy on vulnerable populations. "It frustrated me to see governments failing to meet their promises. I've always had a strong capacity for empathy, and these two experiences spurred me to find ways I could advance solutions to improve their circumstances."

To that end, Simon began interning for Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, the representative for Illinois’ eighth district, in 2021. “I started in his district office working on constituent affairs and learned a lot about the legislative process. After five months, I transitioned to his Washington, DC office to become a Press Intern. I drafted speeches, prepared talking points for his public appearances, and researched policy areas relevant to his agenda. My experience with Congressman Krishnamoorthi got me thinking about financial policy and economic policy as pathways to reducing socioeconomic inequality."

The University of Chicago, Simon said, seemed the next logical step for her to make a greater impact. "Growing up in the northwest Illinois suburb of Palatine, the University of Chicago had always been a known quantity to me. I also recognized that my passion for addressing issues of socioeconomic inequality needed to be tempered with strong quantitative skills. Harris was the best and clearest path for me," said Simon.

Harris, she said, has exceeded her academic expectations. “I want to be able to assess situations fairly and defuse contentious debates through sound statistical analysis. The economics and statistics courses alone are preparing me for professional readiness and lifelong professional confidence."

Additionally, Simon has been learning a great deal through her internship at Cboe Global Markets. "I've been learning about global financial systems by researching regulatory issues and monitoring legislative developments in rulemaking bodies such as Congress and the SEC [The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission]. I've also had the opportunity to report to staff overseas, which has provided a glimpse into policy and exchanges all over the world. I'm definitely looking forward to making more connections between my internship and my Harris coursework moving forward."