“As an EMP student, I’m becoming a much more empathetic teacher because I’m now in my students’ shoes.”
Headshot of Molly Kucich
Molly Kucich

"I now see that the seeds of pursuing a policy career first began when I was a research assistant in the Social and Decision Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University," said Molly Kucich. That experience, she said, nurtured her appreciation for problem-solving through the integration of qualitative and quantitative data analysis. ​However, Kucich also had a longstanding passion for education, which is why after earning her bachelor's degree in decision science, international relations, and politics she decided to participate in Teach for America. "I quickly fell in love with teaching." After five years in Nashville charter schools, she moved to Chicago and began her work in Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

“The further I go in my teaching career, the deeper I go into the curriculum. And the deeper I go into the curriculum, the more I think about the student experience. But I keep running into this wall of policy issues, which seems to be a consistent obstacle for teachers everywhere.”

Kucich said she only considered the Evening Master's Program at Harris when seeking to gain the skills for her next career goal—working in education policy. "My father is an alumnus of the University of Chicago, my husband works for UChicago Medicine, and I also have a strong loyalty to the Chicago area. UChicago was the logical best choice.

"The pandemic hit the education system hard, and I found it especially challenging to be separated from my students. I felt I was trying, yet often failing, to reach them through online teaching. As an English teacher, I don’t begin the year by looking at my students’ test scores; I begin with their narratives. While I appreciate the values of data-driven instruction, the stories are what bring meaning to the numbers, and this year in particular the stories took on a new urgency. My students—along with their parents and teachers—have been forced to grapple with the social and political dilemmas of the pandemic and structural racism. I predict that coming out of the pandemic there will be an overwhelming need for mental health services, and I see a huge lack in funding and resources for mental health workers," said Kucich."That worries me. I want to make sure that my students have all their needs met."

Kucich said one of the most immediate benefits of the Evening Master's Program is the opportunity to apply what she is learning to her days as a teacher. “On one level, I think I’m becoming a much more empathetic teacher because I’m now in my students’ shoes. On another level, what I take away from my classes, such as leadership management, has informed how I interact with my colleagues at CPS. The balance of Harris with teaching has created a productive loop of learning, applying that learning, and then improving on that learning through discussions with my EMP classmates. I'm honestly in awe of them, and it’s great to get to grow together as a cohort.”

In addition to her studies in the EMP, Kucich was recently accepted into the Applied Data Fellowship through the University of Chicago. Through the fellowship, Kucich will spend one year partnering with a local government / nonprofit organization to design and implement programs and work to help translate data-driven insights into actionable policy recommendations, new programs, and operational changes. "I'm excited to have this opportunity to build on and apply  the skills I'm gaining in the EMP."