Marcucci is pursuing the MPP with the hopes of attaining the skills necessary to address some of the structural issues plaguing the United States education system.
Headshot of James Marcucci
James Marcucci

“The problems we are facing in the education system are so vast that even great teachers can’t fix them," said James Marcucci, Master of Public Policy Class of 2025 candidate. "Right now, we're putting band-aids on open wounds, but they are not solutions.”

Originally from Chatham, NJ, Marcucci graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2020 with his bachelor’s in political science and a minor in history. The following year, he began working as a substitute teacher for the School Districts of the Chathams in New Jersey. “Growing up, I had a poor relationship with authority. I was often lashing out and misbehaving. But when I got to high school, I started to have teachers that pushed me to expand my abilities. Those relationships inspired me to become a teacher and give to others what they gave to me.”

Marcucci began teaching as a substitute teacher during the Covid-19 pandemic and saw the challenges his students faced on a day-to-day basis. “Because they had spent a considerable amount of time in online learning, my students were often behaviorally and academically behind. They were so bright and talented, but trying to make the material work for them sometimes felt futile because they weren’t being supported properly.”

In May 2021, Marcucci joined Teach for America (TFA) as a Corps Member. "I would have been very lost as a teacher without TFA. The organization provided incredible support and coaching."

Since July 2021, Marcucci has been an AP U.S. History teacher for Great Oaks Legacy Charter High School in Newark, NJ. "Teaching is incredibly rewarding, but I have also come to recognize that there are challenges outside the scope of what any individual teacher can realistically tackle. We need broader, more sweeping change in the US education system—which is why I decided to pursure the MPP at Harris."

I want to acquire the skills in policy analysis to better investigate the effectiveness of policy interventions. A lot of ideas seem great on the surface but don’t work in practice. Without some level of analysis to evaluate what works and what doesn’t, the policies implemented simply won’t work.” 

Harris’ quantitative focus and emphasis on evidence-based policy decision-making were a main draw for Marcucci. “I sat in on a class during Admitted Students Day, and unlike other schools I had visited, we didn’t debate theories in that class. We looked at data and analysis to see how programs and policies were actually performing.” 

In addition to the curriculum, Marcucci was attracted to Harris’ commitment to student support. “The number of resources the school is willing to marshal in order to support their students shows me that there is care given here to making graduate education more accessible.” 

Marcucci said he is also excited to get involved with Harris Student Organizations like OUTPolitik, Harris Community Action, and Chicago Policy Review. “Harris is also very interconnected with the rest of the university, so I may join a couple of university-wide groups as well—and as an avid board game enthusiast, I might even explore starting a historical gaming society."