Dolen’s classes at Harris are catering to her specific interests, preparing her for a career in national intelligence.
Casey Dolen
Casey Dolen

When Casey Dolen, MPP’19, returned to Chicago from the United State of Women Summit in Los Angeles last year, she and her roommate, Cassie Wilcox, MPP’19, were inspired to share what they had heard at the conference with the community on the South Side of Chicago.

The pair began to create an event that aims to break down barriers for women in the South Side community and the community around the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

“Ultimately, we want to create a space where women in the community can highlight the work they are doing to politicians and nonprofit leaders,” Dolen says. “A lot of women here want to advocate for something but haven’t gotten the final push to do it. We want to help support these women to continue making change.” Dolen says she and Wilcox are planning for the April 2019 event to connect women with resources to advance their advocacy and careers.

Just like her peers at Harris Public Policy, Dolen is passionate about serving others; however, she wasn’t always set on doing nonprofit work. In fact, after she graduates from Harris, she wants to work for an intelligence agency.

“In Congressman Mike Quigley’s US Contemporary Intelligence class, we learn about organizational changes, intelligence briefings, how to have transparency, and how the intelligence community is being shaped by its failures and successes,” Dolen says. Congressman Quigley, AM’85, represents the 5th congressional district of Illinois and has hosted many speakers for his class, including former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morell, to speak on their responsibilities when working in intelligence.

“The classes at Harris are catering to my specific interests,” Dolen says.

Early in her undergraduate career at the University of Kentucky, Dolen found she had a strength for international economics and foreign languages. She thought she wanted to attend law school because it would be helpful in forming policy, but during her search for a graduate school, Dolen stumbled across Harris.

“I didn’t know public policy schools existed until I started looking into other options where I could still work in politics and government. After attending Harris’s Admitted Student Day, I was so impressed by the network and opportunities,” says Dolen, explaining she felt compelled to attend Harris because of the many paths she could create to start her career.

When she came to Harris, Dolen immediately immersed herself in the Harris community.

“I went to everything in the beginning: orientation, math camp – there are always receptions for first-years and events the first month,” Dolen says. “Everyone knows they’re in this stage of making friends, so they’re pretty open to talking to each other.”

Dolen says the Harris community really came together during math camp. “Everyone struggles through the coding, but you struggle together,” she says, adding that a lot of the work she did as a first-year student was group work. “When you tackle something this difficult with a bunch of people and can explain things to each other and bounce ideas around, you get through it.” Dolen is now a teaching assistant for Harris’s core microeconomics class.

Reflecting on her time at Harris, Dolen says the challenging academic curriculum has pushed her and helped her think about issues differently.

“It’s a good feeling when you get through a class. You feel that you accomplished something,” Dolen says. “You don’t realize how much you’ve grown until you put it into practice.”