Altman wants to use his MPP toolkit to help organizations amplify their impact.
Headshot of Jesse Altman
Jesse Altman

“In general, I admire those people who tend to put the world before themselves,” said Jesse Altman, whose volunteer experiences speak to his own desire to do just that. "Although my service in the Peace Corps after college was integral to my interest in policy, I also credit volunteering regularly at a local soup kitchen while growing up and, more recently, volunteering at a rescue shelter for dogs for helping shape my desire to give back."

Altman said that although he was primarily interested in international relations as a career during his undergraduate years at Tufts University, it was that experience with the Peace Corps that illuminated how policy in the public sector promised the most real change. “My desire to give back flourished while serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco. I witnessed the daily hardships Moroccans faced due to the unfair economic and educational policies in place there, and that was especially frustrating to me because literacy and communication are two of my core values.” 

When Altman returned home to Chicago, he joined the organization Working in the Schools, a nonprofit aimed at improving the literacy of students in the Chicago Public School system. “There, I saw the racial and socioeconomic inequities of our education system up close. I analyzed the effectiveness of Working in the Schools’ work and sought to improve it. I created a new evaluation team and started shifting our culture to consider how we evaluate our impact at the beginning of the decision-making process instead of at the end. Although we made some improvements, I realized that any solutions towards creating a more just and equitable world will require the efforts of nonprofits, private companies, and the public sector.”

Altman also realized these solutions needed to be data-informed and driven by well-researched policy. “I am interested in public policy because I want to look critically at the world through an objective, analytic lens and find effective, sustainable solutions to society’s most pressing problems.”

Altman said he knew he was missing the analytic skills he needed to make his greatest impact—and that was why he applied to the Harris Master of Public Policy program. “I see so many organizations with important visions and nearly all the tools to implement them still struggling to make progress. “I want to help these organizations do what they do better, and Harris offers the quantitative tools that I can use to assist struggling nonprofits that embody hope for a better world.”

While at Harris, Altman is excited at the potential of applying what he is learning at the centers, institutes, and labs. “I cannot wait to engage with the Policy Labs, the Pearson Institute, Center for Survey Methodology, and the Urban Labs.” As for the future, Altman aims to follow through with his desire to support those who put the world before themselves: “I want to evaluate the effectiveness of social programs and make compelling, data-driven recommendations to help organizations amplify their impact.”