After completing her MSCAPP degree at Harris, Passen hopes to work in local or state government in an innovation capacity.
Hana Passen, Headshot
Hana Passen

Public service runs in Hana Passen’s blood. The daughter of two United States State Department employees, Passen knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue a career in the public sector.

Passen earned her BA in Classics from Princeton University, where she focused on Ancient Greek political theory. “I was really interested in the philosophical underpinnings of our government and systems of government, as well as our founding documents and principles.”

After graduation, Passen worked as a special assistant for Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, who was Dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. In her role, Passen contributed to Dr. Slaughter’s book on family policy. When Dr. Slaughter transferred to the think and action tank New America, she brought Passen with her. “At New America, I got a first-hand look at how a policy institution is run and the ways in which policy decisions are made,” Passen says.

Passen subsequently worked her way to becoming the Associate Director at New America Local. There, she worked with a team based in cities around the country first finding policy experiments happening at the local and state levels, catalyzing local innovation by convening unusual suspects, and telling stories of success in order to translate those policies to the federal level. Specifically, she explored how digital government can use tech-forward approaches in order to improve better public services.

While at New America Local, Passen says, she recognized that “in the era of gridlock politics, the traditional theory of change doesn’t apply.”

Her interest in the intersection of technology and policy led Passen to explore the Master's in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) program at Harris. “The high quality of the program’s reputation and alumni network were huge draws—but it was the people I met at Admitted Student Day that closed the deal,” she remembers.

This year, Passen is serving as an Orientation Leader for the incoming class. “I had such a great orientation experience—and my Orientation Leader was amazing. We built a strong community within the first few weeks. I wanted to provide that experience for other students.”

After completing her degree at Harris, Passen hopes to work in local or state government in an innovation capacity, either in the office of a Chief Innovation Officer or Chief Technology Officer. She’s also interested in working for a small start-up or nonprofit with the goal of bringing the perspectives of technology and community together. “Ultimately, I want to actually work with people and design policy to meet people’s needs,” she says.

Outside of classes, Passen spends time running or rollerblading on the lakefront trail, cooking, and reading fiction. And although she was excited to move to Chicago to begin her degree, she admits she wasn’t entirely prepared for just how cold Chicago winters can get. “My advice to any incoming Harris students who may be relocating to Chicago? The knee-length coat is a gamechanger.”

Passen also deeply values the community she found at Harris. “I found really great people here at Harris—future colleagues and friends who are smart, conscientious, and committed to making the world a better place.”