A Community Relations Coordinator for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Bailey serves as a liaison between communities and corporations to ensure that corporations are being good neighbors.
Headshot of Sabrina Bailey
Sabrina Bailey

“I joined Harris’ Evening Master’s Program (EMP) to supplement my extensive science background with a better understanding of policy,” said Sabrina Bailey, who completed her PhD in inorganic chemistry from Howard University in 2001. “I’m hoping to gain technical expertise in data analytics that will allow me to better evaluate the environmental impact of new and existing industries from an environmental justice perspective.”

As Community Relations Coordinator for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bailey said her main goal is to help people understand the laws that govern the environment—and provide advice on how to deal with environmental challenges they face. “I want to be able to provide people with the tools to better advocate for themselves, and I think a degree in policy will help me figure out how to do that,” she said.

Bailey’s affinity for science began when she was a child. “I remember falling in love with science in third grade when we started to learn astronomy. I started to think a lot about the natural world around me. And I kept asking myself the ‘why’ questions.”

During her PhD program, Bailey also discovered her love for teaching. “We had a TA requirement for my program, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nothing beat that feeling of being able to help someone who had trouble understanding a concept get it,” Bailey said.

After earning her PhD, Bailey went on to serve in various roles in science education, from teaching at the college level to overseeing tutoring programs for elementary and middle school students. When Bailey joined the Illinois EPA in December 2019, she said the teachable moments—for herself, for staff, and constituents—were especially enlightening. “Since I began at the EPA, I have had numerous conversations with the Manager of the Office of Environmental Justice about developing a methodology for evaluating environmental justice concerns. As time went on, we realized we wanted to formalize our thinking into an analytical framework. That’s when I started thinking about going back to school to make sure I could do this work properly.”

Bailey said she wanted a more robust data analysis toolkit to use for making policy decisions at work. “Understanding how policies are made and being able to think through the multiple layers involved, especially the data piece, is important to me. For this environmental justice analysis, there is a lot of different data we would be using, so we need to make sure we are thinking carefully and critically about how to incorporate it all.” Given its strong quantitative reputation, Bailey said Harris was “an obvious choice.”

For anyone considering the EMP, Bailey said, “It’s challenging, but if you put in the time, you’ll get the results you want.”