Jan. 4, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 7

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    Harris School students serving City Hall as project managers

    Peter Schuler
    News Office

    Five students in the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies have answered a call to serve as project managers for Mayor Daley’s Council of Technology Advisers.

    An internship program at City Hall, which began in November, will allow University students––all candidates for a Master of Public Policy degree––to participate in Daley’s initiative to make Chicago a world leader in high technology. This leadership status will be measured by the growth rate of technology jobs, firms and investments in related enterprises.

    Harris students will report to Katherine Gehl, Special Assistant to the Mayor, who is Daley’s point person for his technology action plan. Each student will coordinate a Technology Council subcommittee. The subcommittees, which have met weekly since 1999, are responsible for technology industry development, marketing, city infrastructure, education and workforce development, the digital divide and e-government.

    Daley has tapped a cross section of the city’s leaders to participate as a volunteer task force. Members include technology industry CEOs, university professors, educational leaders, members of science institutions, financiers, entrepreneurs and job creators.

    Robert Michael, Dean of the Harris School, said, “This is a very exciting new venture. This is a great opportunity to respond to a genuine City Hall need. Our students can work directly with high-level, high-energy, big-city policymakers, and that’s ideal for us. Our students will be able to participate in urban policymaking firsthand, in a city that’s a model of initiative and energy.” Michael plans to meet with the interns as a group on a regular basis to incorporate the value of their experiences downtown into the Harris School curriculum.

    Gehl, a former senior manager at Oracle Corp. and later a staff director at the Chicago Public Schools, sees the interns in a “chief-of-staff role––to support the subcommittee members, who often lack the time and organization to make the most of their group’s potential.” She noted that Daley has put the technology initiative at the top of his agenda as well as his transformation of Chicago Public Schools. She described the technology initiative as “an effort essential to the quality of life and continued economic viability of the city.”

    Gehl assigned the interns to subcommittees that match their professional interests. On the Digital Divide Subcommittee, Harris student Isabel Dominicis said she is looking forward to “working with private industry leaders to prevent Chicago from being unprepared for the digital age.”

    Kathleen Korb was posted to the Education/Workforce Subcommittee, for which Donald York, the Horace B. Horton Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics, is a chairman. This group focuses on providing computers and training to inner-city schools. “I feel that this internship will allow me to be exposed to the process of cutting-edge policy in the real world vs. simply studying about it in class,” Korb said. “I am excited to be able to sit in on meetings that are full of a diverse group of active, civic-minded Chicagoans. Also, the goals of the subcommittee strongly mirror why I came to policy school, which is to improve schools systematically while still giving them some autonomy.”

    The Harris School has previously provided interns to support the city’s budget staff, and there are many Harris graduates now working at City Hall. Michael hopes this new program will further enhance the reputation of the University and the Harris School as dependable resources for City Hall. He views these new internships “as an excellent way to continue to build productive links between the University and the city.”

    Earlier this year, a Public Policy Technology group was formed at the Harris School for students interested in the influence of technology and the Internet on public policy.

    In a separate initiative with the city, Michael, Edward Lawlor, Dean of the School of Social Service Administration, and Hank Webber, Vice President for Community Affairs, recently have begun an ongoing dialogue with Daley’s top aides to exchange ideas about such major Chicago programs as human services and housing.