Jackson seeks to strengthen and empower communities with technology and data insights.
Headshot of Ellie Jackson
Ellie Jackson

“I’m really energized when I can help someone realize they can do so much more than they originally thought they could,” said Ellie Jackson, MSCAPP Class of 2023. As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin Madison (UW-Madison), she joined Slow Food, which delivers meals to people in need. “I wanted to ensure Slow Food’s longevity, so when I served as Executive Director in my senior year, I helped establish its 501-C3 nonprofit status by forming an advisory board, a set of bylaws, and initiating the first fundraising dinner. It was a really motivating experience for me and, ten years later, Slow Food is still thriving.”

Four years after graduating from UW-Madison with a BA in business administration, Jackson worked for Omnicare, a CVS healthcare company, where she initially led teams that built and introduced a service line around medication delivery for assisted living facilities. “Our goal was to design products with people in mind,” Jackson said, “But I often wondered, ‘How do I know which questions to ask, before even looking at the data? And if I don’t have the tools and understanding to evaluate current contexts, how can I empower people?’ I felt like I was missing a key piece of the puzzle.”

Jackson said she came to the Master of Science in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) program at Harris to find that missing piece.

“In my technical work, I strive to utilize data in tandem with human-centered design. In CAPP, for my first major technical project, my fellow classmates and I partnered with ExCons for Community & Social Change, a local crime prevention organization. We addressed important questions they had about the fidelity of policing data, and I continued to investigate the accountability of institutions as a data engineer working with Robert Vargas’s Justice Project lab on campus,” Jackson said.

Jackson further refined her engineering skillset with an internship at BallotReady in summer 2022. “I learned a great deal about database design on their data strategy team, and the 2022 midterm elections was an exciting time to be at BallotReady. It was an energizing to contribute to a widely used tech platform that empowers people to use their voice and vote down ballot.”

Now, in her second year of the program, Jackson is heavily involved across the Harris community. “At the start of the Fall Quarter 2022, fellow CAPP student Núria Adell Raventós organized a team of other CAPP students—Sergio Olalla, Drew Keller, Cole von Glahn, Olivia Pinney, and myself—to initiate Harris’ first data and ethics conference. As data practitioners, this work was incredibly meaningful to us and the support we received from the University, Harris, DSI [Data Science Institute] and CAPP made the event possible.”

Jackson also serves on the board of South Side Civic, a Harris student organization that connects South Side nonprofits, small public offices, and social entrepreneurs with UChicago. “Last year I participated in South Side Civic’s Scopeathon—which pairs students with civic organizations seeking assistance with challenges—and I loved it. I joined the board to help create a similar experience for the next group of students."

Jackson also served as a TA for ECC Accelerator taught by Will Gossin. “I got to share my entrepreneurial spirit with aspiring technologists in high school and college, advising them on their product pitch before launching their application into App Store. Anyone can now download each of their Apps on their iPhone!

“Technology serves as a powerful conduit to connect people to their needs and aspirations. The graduate degree I am pursuing, at the intersection of policy and technology, is equipping me with the technical skill and rigor to collaborate with communities and build products that empower people.”