Cornwell seeks to use her MPP with a company that leverages private-sector technology for social and environmental good.
Headshot of Chandler Cornwell
Chandler Cornwell

Chandler Cornwell has long been committed to social service. While working on her bachelor degree in English, government, and law at Lafayette College, she focused her time outside of class working as a volunteer coordinator. Once she graduated, nonprofit work seemed like a natural fit.

She first interned with New Sector Alliance, completing a fellowship in nonprofit leadership while working with Boston Public Schools. She subsequently began working with a network of nonprofit charter schools, Achievement First, initially with the professional development team before shifting to a role doing data analysis and CRM management for the recruitment team. “I learned a ton in both roles, but it wasn’t a place I really saw myself staying long term—I wanted to try something completely different,” Cornwell said.

For her next step, Cornwell drew inspiration from her father's work as a financial advisor. “I thought about how investing can be a way of building wealth that not everyone has access to—and that is more typically used to multiply existing wealth." She began working at Betterment, a robo-advisor that offers the ability to invest to any customer, with no minimum deposits, first as a customer service representative and then in multiple operations roles. “I learned about a whole new industry, adding to my skill set while experiencing a completely different work culture,” Cornwell says.

After four years at Betterment, Cornwell said she "felt ready for a new challenge. However, when I looked at things I was interested in, I saw two categories: roles that would not challenge me but for which I was qualified, and roles that would challenge me but for which I wasn’t qualified."

Cornwell thus began looking at MBA and MPP programs. "I'd been to Chicago and could see myself living there, and I knew a few people who had gone to Harris." When she took a closer look at the Harris Master of Public Policy program, it seemed like a perfect fit. “The way Harris talks about the MPP—social impact down to a science—basically sums up what I’m looking to do. I felt that Harris was the place I needed to be to make the career shift I was looking for.” Cornwell sees Harris as the perfect place to hone her skills in data analysis and strategy and shift her focus towards values-based private sector companies.

Cornwell hit the ground running this fall. While she admitted the quantitative learning curve was  challenging, she said that’s part of the appeal: “The point of the MPP is to get something I couldn’t get elsewhere.” She’s also excited about the broader elective coursework. “I’m looking forward to taking classes within the other graduate schools that will provide context and new perspectives to issues I would not be able to learn about in such depth on my own,” she said.

After Harris, Cornwell looks to leverage her nonprofit and private sector experience to work in sustainability. “I want to thread the needle between my nonprofit and private sector experience to work in the growing space of for-profit companies that are truly grounded in a desire to give back to their community. I’m really excited to work in this growing arena of corporations who are really making that a part of their ethos."