Attending Harris Public Policy has allowed Wilcox to sharpen her skills and refine her goals so she can make a difference.
Cassie Wilcox
Cassie Wilcox

Cassie Wilcox, MPP’19, has always enjoyed environments that encourage people to serve others and grow in the process. She received her undergraduate degree in Social Science from Faulkner University, in Montgomery, Alabama, and was set on going to law school. Then she completely changed her career path.

Wilcox started to pursue her lifelong passion of soccer and worked with college and professional teams.

“I like working with people and teaching and helping others grow,” she said, “but it didn’t challenge me in a mental capacity.” While working with professional soccer teams allowed Wilcox to make an impact on individuals and teams, she wanted to do more.

Wanting to try something new, Wilcox started her own nonprofit, Nomad. The organization offered affordable, transitional housing and other services for survivors of domestic violence. Wilcox ran Nomad for two years, but she did not yet have the knowledge and resources to provide long-term sustainability for the organization and it eventually dissolved.

Wilcox went back to the drawing board and applied for multiple public policy graduate programs. She ultimately chose the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy because of the connection she felt with the other admitted students before she had even accepted her offer.

“At the time I was admitted to Harris, it was between Harris and another school. But when other people who were admitted to Harris started communicating through the admitted student Facebook page, people started talking about roommates and planning events, and I began to feel so comfortable before meeting everyone in person,” Wilcox says. When she finally visited campus, Wilcox said that everything just clicked.

“The community starts before coming to campus. That’s how I knew to choose Harris,” Wilcox said, adding that upon coming to Harris, she and her roommate Casey Dolen, MPP’19, went to multiple social events for incoming first-year students to network and meet as many of their peers as possible.

With a relatively limited quantitative background, Wilcox was especially grateful for the Harris community during math camp.

“If you’re like me and didn’t have strong quantitative skills in the beginning, it is challenging. But there are people and resources there to catch you up,” Wilcox says. “The important thing to know is that you’re not alone. The faculty are patient and kind and other students help lift you up. There’s no reason to fear failing.”

Wilcox mastered Harris’ core classes and became extremely involved in extracurricular activities. She is currently the social committee chair for Harris Student Government, is involved in two student organizations (Global Affairs in Public Policy and Latin America(n) Matters), and is creating a nonprofit conference with Dolen to empower women on the South Side and in the UChicago community.

“I’m happy here. I’ve definitely started to look at things through a more inquisitive lens,” Wilcox says. “I feel more confident because I’ve learned how to think differently.”

With growing confidence, Wilcox plans to make a career shift away from direct nonprofit work after graduation.

“I will probably try to work at the state or local government level,” Wilcox says. “I really want to get on the electoral side of things. I would really like to work for an elected official.”

Wilcox says that Harris has given her the analytical skills she needs to question what’s in front of her, dig past the surface level, and become a leader. She looks forward to a future that allows her to be active in impacting policy at large.