A former Teach For America teacher, Gedo plans to use the policymaking skills she gains at Harris to work with communities on improving social and education policy for families and youth.
Shannon Gedo in white shirt
Shannon Gedo

University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Master of Public Policy student and Fulbright scholar Shannon Gedo describes herself as a “nomad at heart.” She remembers her first study abroad experience in Paris nearly 10 years ago, where she discovered her love of travel and learning about other cultures. “That experience opened up my eyes to what was going on in the world. Talking to people from different countries, being in a cosmopolitan city, and tapping into the history and culture there was such a privilege.”

Gedo recently returned from Paris after finishing an internship with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). She spent six months in the Employment, Labour, and Social Affairs Directorate conducting social policy research and writing a report on family support services and policy. She also developed surveys to collect information on how to enhance family support services and delivery mechanisms through public policies and local programs in OECD countries.

“Since I was an undergrad at UC Berkeley, I’ve dedicated my entire career to education and thinking how unequal opportunities can affect children’s outcomes,” she said. Expanding on this mission, Gedo focuses her studies in the MPP program on family and youth policy from a social services perspective. Her ultimate goal is to apply her newfound policymaking skills to work with communities on improving social and education policies for families and youth.

She was inspired to pursue this goal when she joined Teach for America and moved to Detroit to teach English and Social Studies to low-income, high-need fifth graders. “The kids I taught in Detroit were some of the greatest, most resilient people I have ever met, and I learned a great deal from their strengths and experiences.”

After teaching in Detroit for two years, Gedo traveled to Malaysia for a Fulbright fellowship, teaching English to children in a rural secondary school. For her principal English program, she received a grant for more than $10,000 from the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to take 20 students to Chiang Mai, Thailand, for an English and cultural exchange program. It was the first collaborative international Fulbright English program of its kind. For her other English programs, she led a Girls’ Empowerment English Camp, a Boys’ Leadership Camp, and a student-led Leadership Camp, reaching almost 400 students through those programs.

After her time in Malaysia, Gedo worked for EVERFI, an education technology company based in Washington, D.C., as a regional program implementation manager. “I wanted to expand my understanding by looking at education policy and equity for kids from a more systemic, macro lens. EVERFI was appealing because I worked with public school districts across the state to provide free life-skills programs. It allowed me to understand the policy behind the Washington education landscape.”

Gedo realized that in order to deepen her impact on education policy, she would need to gain more quantitative skills. “Harris was very appealing because of the data-driven curriculum. Being able to tell stories with data is so important: beyond the advocacy piece, I will be able to work on research and dive into more quantitative work.”

In addition to quantitative skills, Harris has helped Gedo build her resume. She is the Knowledge Management Director for Harris Community Action, a graduate teaching assistant for Professor Ariel Kalil’s Early Childhood Development and Policy course, and a Harris writing teaching assistant. She also found her internship with the OECD through the Career Development Office’s network.

Once she graduates, Gedo plans to focus on public sector or nonprofit work in family and youth advocacy. Where she will work is yet to be determined, but she knows she wants to continue learning from her community and make an impact through her work.