Sanders plans to use her time at Harris to learn how to design data- and trauma-informed policy to reduce gun violence.
Headshot of Megan Sanders
Megan Sanders

"I had originally planned to pursue international relations," said Megan Sanders, a first-
year Master of Public Policy student at Harris. "I attended the University of Puget Sound as an undergrad, majoring in international political economy and politics & government with an emphasis on international relations and a minor in Spanish. This plan of study set me up to head right to the State Department after finishing school." However, she had her doubts about whether this path was right. "I couldn’t imagine going to other countries and promoting democracy when there was still so much work to be done domestically.”

While still considering an international role with the State Department, Sanders returned to her home state of Colorado after graduation in 2019 and initially began working in politics. “The politicians in Colorado were working on bipartisan issues that were big but hyperlocal. It was a great opportunity to see how much gets done on the local level and explore the different facets of public sector work."

Sanders subsequently explored the nonprofit sector, serving as a Program Director at El Pomar Foundation. "That experience showed me where the philanthropic sector plays a role in filling needs not being met through other channels.” Then, in 2021, a shooting in Boulder, Colorado shook Sanders and her family. Gun violence had been a reality in Sanders’s community since the infamous 1999 Columbine shooting in her hometown, Littleton, but this incident felt even closer to home. “I remember waiting for confirmation that my sister was not inside the grocery store where ten people were killed by a semi-automatic pistol. It was my catalyst. Gun violence was no longer an abstract policy issue.”

Sanders’s passion to address gun violence led her to Harris. “The relationship between UChicago and Harris with organizations that study gun violence is what drew me to the MPP program. I'm also excited to explore opportunities outside the classroom—like Harris Community Action and the Crime Lab—to apply what we learn to real-world issues and give back to the community.”

To supplement her policy education, Sanders plans to take courses in the social work field at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. “Before coming to Harris, I had so many questions but no good answers: how do we know a program is reducing bad outcomes? How do we solve gun violence? How do we address residual trauma from these things in communities? I want to come up with data- and trauma informed answers to these questions, and Harris and Crown are the best places to learn how to do this.”

In the future, Sanders plans to combine her interest in policy and politics. “I want to work in policy advocacy in order to bridge the gaps between community organizations and policymakers. At some point, I want to run for local, city, or state office in Colorado.”

Sanders’s advice to prospective Harris students is straightforward: “Harris is a place for people looking for answers to the questions they are most passionate about and are ready to explore and engage with opportunities to get closer to those answers.”