von Glahn seeks to use his MSCAPP skills to focus on ethical development of data tools for environmental or urban policy fields.


Headshot of Cole von Glahn
Cole von Glahn

Cole von Glahn found himself fascinated with stories at an early age. “Stories are an exercise in imagining possibility, and I love storytelling with other people.” This love ultimately propelled him into a career in theater, where he was able to “set up lab environments,” as he put it, to see what might be possible in realities different from our own.

von Glahn eventually graduated from Tufts University in 2014 with a bachelor’s in drama and sociology, then moved to Chicago in 2015. “Chicago is famous for its storefront theater scene, and with more than 300 professional theaters in the city, I decided I wanted to try to hack it in this DIY theater culture.”

From 2015 to 2020, von Glahn worked in artistic management across numerous theatrical productions for several theaters in Chicago and the Midwest at large. From 2016 to 2020, he assumed the role of Director of Production for the First Floor Theater, a nationally recognized new arts incubator. Beginning in 2018, he also worked as an Artistic Producer for the Raven Theater, a cultural cornerstone in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood for more than 37 years.

Although he loved his time working in theater, von Glahn found himself thinking about the scope of the impact he was having. von Glahn decided he wanted to make a larger impact, so he decided to leave and explore policy. “Because what isn’t policy?” he said. “Theater and policy actually have a similar organizing principle. It’s all about trying to understand and improve systems for living together. I thought I could take my experience in theater and apply it to the way I approached policy to produce the level of impact I wanted to make.”

When asked what drew him to Harris, von Glahn’s answer was simple. “The MSCAPP program. I’m interested in tech policy and digital privacy, so I wanted a program where I could gain a high level of technical competency so I could communicate effectively with technologists. CAPP has given me that technical understanding along with the policy knowledge.”

Last summer, von Glahn was able to apply the technical competencies he had been gaining at Harris during an internship at the Shedd Aquarium. “I worked for their technology department and, with another Harris student, built machine learning models to predict daily attendance. We also worked on some ETL [Extract, Transform, Load] pipelining where we built out and automated their data processing framework.”

Most recently, von Glahn was one of the chief organizers of the inaugural “Data, Artificial Intelligence, and the Ethical Imperative” conference. “How we use public- and people-centered data is fundamental to our work, so some other folks from my cohort and I wanted to bring together experts to talk about some of the key issues that we are currently facing, and that we likely will face, with technology moving forward. It was a great way to introduce a broad range of perspectives on data privacy and ethics to the broader Harris community.”