GRADUCon 2018 - Careers in Think Tanks Panel


Would you like to help shape public policy through specific research on political, economic, and/or social issues? The range of issues covered by think tanks is virtually endless, as they can be regional, communal, or issue focused, and vary by position on the political spectrum. Yet, they all intend to be sources of new ideas and research that can influence political and policy implications. This panel will be a glimpse into the world of think tanks, highlighting the diversity of topics covered, as well as the different paths one can take within a career.


Sarah Yerkes, Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (PhD Georgetown University 2012)

Sarah Yerkes is a fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program, where her research focuses on Tunisia’s political, economic, and security developments as well as state-society relations in the Middle East and North Africa. She has been a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Council on Foreign Relations international affairs fellow and has taught in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. Yerkes is a former member of the State Department’s policy planning staff, where she focused on North Africa. Previously, she was a foreign affairs officer in the State’s Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian affairs. Yerkes also served as a geopolitical research analyst for the U.S. military’s Joint Staff Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J5) at the Pentagon, advising the Joint Staff leadership on foreign policy and national security issues.

Roger Pilon, Vice President for Legal Affairs, Cato Institute (PhD Philosophy 1979)

Roger Pilon is the Cato’s Institute’s vice president for legal affairs, the founding director of Cato’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, the inaugural holder of Cato’s B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies, and the founding publisher of the Cato Supreme Court Review. Prior to joining Cato, Pilon held five senior posts in the Reagan administration, including at State and Justice, and was a national fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. In 1989 the Bicentennial Commission presented him with its Benjamin Franklin Award for excellence in writing on the U.S. Constitution. In 2001 Columbia University’s School of General Studies awarded him its Alumni Medal of Distinction. Pilon lectures and debates at universities and law schools across the country and testifies often before Congress. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Legal Times, National Law Journal, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Stanford Law and Policy Review, and elsewhere. He has appeared on ABC’s Nightline, CBS’s 60 Minutes II, Fox News Channel, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, C-SPAN, and other media. Pilon holds a BA from Columbia University, an MA and a PhD from the University of Chicago, and a JD from the George Washington University School of Law.

Michael Pergamit, Senior Fellow, The Urban Institute (PhD Economics 1983)

Michael Pergamit is a Senior Fellow in the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute. He conducts research on youth at the transition to adulthood with emphasis on vulnerable populations including youth aging out of foster care and homeless youth. HIs broader research agenda focuses on aspects of low-income families such as instable housing, inadequate savings, and public assistance usage. Much of his current research involves rigorous evaluation of social programs intended to build evidence on what works. Before joining the Urban Institute, he conducted research at NORC at the University of Chicago, and prior to that at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, where he was the Director of Longitudinal Research. He earned his PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago.

George Bogden, Associate Director, The Hudson Institute (DPhil Oxford University, International Relations 2017)

George Bogden is a researcher and writer on international affairs. He currently serves as the Associate Director of the Center for the Future of Liberal Society and manages Professor Walter Russell Mead’s projects in scholarship, journalism, and teaching. His work includes strategic planning for the Center, administering its day-to-day operations, fundraising support, as well as the training and supervision of junior staff. His commentary has appeared in the German Marshall Fund’s Paper Series, The American Interest, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and Perspectives. Aspects of George’s research on the Balkans will appear in a forthcoming book chapter published by the United States Marine Corps Press.


Danette (Dani) Kauffman, (MA Humanities 1969)

Danette (Dani) Gentile Kauffman is an award-winning corporate communicator. Dani worked in corporate communications at fast-paced, high-tech MCI Telecommunications Corp. and the MCI Foundation. She was a senior manager for internal communications at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before, during, and after the housing crisis. She started her career as a high school English teacher and specialist at Gallaudet University. She is a published travel writer and author of a self-help book honored for excellence.