Chicoine aims to use her MPP skills to empower communities through working with a nonprofit that interacts directly with local and state government.
Headshot of Francesca Chicoine
Francesca Chicoine

“I've always been very involved in my community, mainly through community advocacy and volunteering,” said Francesca Chicoine, MPP Class of 2024. "I’d say working at an educational summer program when I was in high school was pivotal in my passion for social change. We worked with students from under resourced communities to help bridge them to the next grade level through academic and extracurricular opportunities. I valued the community-based approach to education. Over time, I realized elevating community voices is vital, and government might not always do that. This is why the intersection of nonprofits work and government appeals to me: you're not only listening to those impacted by your policies but working directly with them to implement them on the ground." 

Chicoine said her parents, and growing up in Fremont, California, also influenced her policy interests. "The Bay Area is a very diverse place, but it's also a very privileged place. Most people I grew up around—myself included—had a lot of economic privilege and took for granted basic privileges and rights. But I’d also see people in our communities without access to housing or basic health care. Combine that environment with a mom who is a nurse practitioner and midwife and a dad who is a leader in the nonprofit sector, my eyes were definitely opened to ways we are failing people in our communities."

While Chicoine was pursuing her undergraduate degree at the University of Portland in Oregon, two internships, she said, helped refine her policy interests.

In summer 2018, she interned with Destination: Home, a housing organization that works on a “housing first” approach to individuals experiencing homelessness. There, she primarily reviewed policies and systems of housing applications. The following summer, she interned with National Center for Youth Law on the juvenile justice team. “We'd go to Sacramento [state capital of California] a couple of times a week and lobby for bills. My experiences talking to politicians and attending bill hearings cemented my interest in this work.”

After graduating with a BA in philosophy and political science and a minor in social justice, Chicoine joined the Public Health Institute in California, working on its Bridge Program. "The Bridge Program takes a harm reduction approach, providing 24/7 access to medication for addiction treatment in California’s emergency departments."

Chicoine said she came to see that many of the issues program participants were facing were systemic. "To make meaningful change, the root issues need to be addressed. I do not think I can change this world by myself, but connecting policy with my experience seemed valuable, so I started looking at policy schools. I wanted a school focused on social policy and backed by strong evidence-based and data-driven skills. When I went to Admitted Student Day at Harris, I saw this focus front and center."

And the Master of Public Policy program, she said, has delivered thus far. "While the Core gave me the foundation to be able to understand the importance of data and economics when it comes to social policy, perhaps the biggest thing I've gained thus far—and am grateful for—is the Harris community. Whether classmates, professors, or visiting speakers, the volume and breadth of knowledge and experience shared has been amazing." 

For anyone considering Harris, Chicoine offers the following advice: "Follow the path that feels right for you and stay grounded in why you are coming here. That will help ensure you have a career that you really love after Harris."