Falk sees her Evening Master’s Program experience as an ideal opportunity for professional and personal growth.
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Jo Falk

A long-time Chicagoan, Jo Falk is a non-profit professional enthusiastic about mission-driven organizations. As the Senior Program Director for the University of Chicago’s Careers in Policy and Social Impact, policy is pivotal in her daily experience, both as an administrative leader and in supporting students launching their careers in the field. “Having lived in Chicago since 2003, I have seen the city grow and change. I’ve always been interested in public policy and paid attention to what’s going on politically in the city. Working with employers on behalf of students made my interest in education policy more concrete.”

After earning an undergraduate degree in photography and working for a couple of years in the marketing and communication fields, Falk pivoted to the higher education arena—first working with graduate students at Northwestern University’s College of Arts and Sciences and Business School and now at UChicago’s Careers in Policy and Social Impact.

“Our goal at Careers in Policy and Social Impact is to prepare students to enter the job market and navigate a career that’s public service or impact driven. They can use the skills gained through this program and transfer them to any workplace, job, or leadership challenge—keeping broader impacts in mind,” Falk said.  

In her role as Senior Program Director, Falk said she spends most of her day translating strategy into operations and managing a team of four employees. “My favorite part of my job, though, is advocating for what students need and witnessing or participating in student success stories.” It was during this process, Falk said, that she continually heard about Harris.

“Originally, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue a master’s degree, but after hearing about Harris so frequently, I decided to apply to the EMP.” Falk said she saw the Evening Master’s Program as a way to bolster her professional toolkit and better support students entering a breadth of public policy careers. “Plus,” Falk added, “the EMP is satisfying a curiosity of mine—diving deep into data analytics and program management.”

Although the EMP program has been virtual thus far given the pandemic, Falk said she quickly formed strong connections and developed relationships with individuals in her cohort during her first quarter—especially with fellow students who work for UChicago. She also said her study group has been essential to her success in the EMP thus far. “I thought I was going to dread data analytics: I’d not done math since AP Calculus in high school 20 years ago! However, I found support with my study group as well as other resources offered in the EMP. Plus, with all EMP students also working full-time, my classmates have proven to be extremely organized, and the professors are respectful of our time and bandwidth.”

Falk said that while the coursework has been challenging, she’s already seeing results. “In my professional career, I can now look at data differently or think about ways to collect data in ways that are more effective.”

Falk offered this piece of advice to prospective EMP students: “If you become a master of something, you're really diving deep. So, you should ask yourself, ‘Is this really the community and the conversations I want to be in?’ You're deciding where you want to invest your time, money, energy, and brain power. From my perspective, if it’s public policy and social impact that you are passionate about, the EMP community and program aligns very well.