Maura Welch


Syracuse, New York



Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service, Georgetown University



Deloitte Consulting (Washington, DC)


During her undergraduate studies at Georgetown University, Maura Welch worked part-time at a branch of the U.S. Department of State. Tucked away inside the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, she found herself in a small office called the Humanitarian Information Unit.

Welch expected she would work in government after she graduated, but didn’t know where or how. Instead, she says she “stumbled upon” an opportunity at Deloitte Consulting that led to her working with—but not in—the federal government.

Welch rotated through different projects about every four months, handling assignments for the FBI, United States Agency for International Development (US AID), and various nonprofit organizations. Finally, she was assigned to a more extended stint helping the Department of Homeland Security with issues related to immigration and human trafficking, and “how the U.S. government can better use data to understand victims and get at the problem.”

During her four years at Deloitte, Welch’s projects and programs included serving as lead author on a white paper that used State of Maryland data for more than 1,200 schools to show the need for federal summer nutrition programs. She also helped a nonprofit client develop a plan to double its reach of services for human trafficking survivors and at-risk youth generally, and conducted a program review to identify $28 million in annual savings for a law enforcement client by redesigning counterterrorism efforts.

“That gave me great exposure to different types of policy,” she says of the Deloitte experience. “It gave me a toolkit for approaching government practice, and I learned a lot when it came to how you can use data to make better business decisions. The projects I enjoyed most were the ones where I could work more locally than nationally, which got me interested in urban policy.”

Welch saw a master’s in public policy as a path toward honing her skills and learning more about the local side of policy. Harris seemed like a fit given its location in and tight ties to the City of Chicago, as well as its strong focus on quantitative data analysis. “I knew that Harris has such a strong quant focus,” she says. “I figured if I was going to go back to school, I wanted it to be for tactical and tangible skills.”

Given that she had no formal business background from her undergraduate days, Welch elected to enroll in the joint MPP/MBA program that Harris offers in conjunction with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “I had seen through my work with Deloitte how important that connection between policy and business was,” she says. “I thought doing the joint degree at the University of Chicago would be a good way to hone that and keep going with that.”

Both schools also had local connections with city government, funders, and philanthropists who understand urban policy, which promised to paint a picture of “what that would look like as a career,” Welch says. “Plus, I could intern part-time during my studies. That was very appealing to me.”

That train of thought took Welch straight to City Hall during her first summer, when she served as a mayoral fellow. She spent her days conducting an analysis of the City of Chicago’s $7 billion in revenues and expenditures and developing 81 data visualizations to improve public access to key financial information. “At the top of my list was to work at a mayor’s office in a big city,” she says. She worked with both the budget office and the public safety team, “which got me interested in the intersection of violence prevention and economic development.”

A first-year class at Harris called “Crime Prevention,” taught by UChicago Crime Lab Director Jens Ludwig, provided real-world examples of how to use statistical and program evaluation to pick apart sometimes conflicting studies and make recommendations to a policymaker. Welch ended up interning at the Urban Lab (the umbrella organization for the Crime Lab) during the first year of her studies, and eventually served as a teaching assistant for Ludwig’s class.

During her second year, when she starting taking classes at Booth, Welch continued to explore violence prevention and how to keep capital flowing toward such programs. In the Scaling Social Innovation Search Lab, she looked at identifying innovative programs and bringing one to Chicago. She ended up spending spring of 2017 interning with a program called Chicago CRED, which attempts to extend economic opportunity to young men previously involved with violence, and she continued working with that organization through a school-sponsored case competition this year.

Last summer, Welch served as a Farber MBA Intern with a venture philanthropy fund called REDF, which draws from the investing practices of the private equity field “to think about how you can invest in social enterprises, focusing on employing people with barriers.” Based out of San Francisco, REDF partnered her with a local Chicago organization called Cara, which helps those who have been out of the job market become gainfully employed.

This summer, Welch will return to Deloitte, which sponsored her education, to work in the Chicago office. She hopes to resume working on social impact projects, in particular related to urban planning and inequality in cities. But she won’t just be picking up where she left off.

“Skills-wise, I’m much more confident and comfortable thinking about the use of data for making decisions,” Welch says. “Through Harris and Booth, I’ve seen so many examples of how to do that. I’m so much better at doing fiscal analysis. I’m so much more focused—three years have allowed me explore what I’m interested in, and what I want to be doing.”

John Burrows, a lecturer at Harris and an adjunct assistant professor at Booth, says the combination of the two degrees provides specialization in one or more policy areas from Harris and the knowledge about how to execute on those ideas from Booth.

“More and more industries are becoming regulated, which means lobbying is become more important, and if you’re an MBA student who doesn’t understand how policy works, that’s going to be a challenge,” he says. Burrows figures MBA/MPP students “have an intellectual curiosity that spans a range of interests.”