GRADUCon 2019 - 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.


Katrina Mulligan, Managing Director for National Security and International Policy, Center for American Progress (AB 2001, JD UCLA 2007)

Katrina Mulligan is a national security policy expert with a decade of experience in the White House, the Department of Justice, and the intelligence community. She currently serves as the Managing Director for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress, where she is helping to develop bold ideas for a progressive approach to foreign policy. Prior to joining the Center for American Progress, Mulligan served at the Department of Justice, where she served as a senior attorney advisor in the National Security Division and represented the Department in the National Security Council policymaking process. Prior to joining the federal civil service in 2009, Mulligan served as an associate attorney at the law firm of DLA Piper in Washington, D.C., and as the National Advance Staff responsible for managing the traveling press corps for the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.

Amanda Blair, Research Officer, U.S. Institute for Peace (PhD Political Science 2017)

Amanda H. Blair is a Program Officer at the United States Institute of Peace where she organizes, supports, and strengthens research efforts. Prior to joining USIP, she was a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, where she researched the intersections between violence, armed conflict, and gender, particularly in the context of Central and East Africa. In the summer of 2018, she was also a summer researcher at the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings, where she worked on projects related to democratic transition and consolidation in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to research, she has experience working with domestic and international non-profit organizations in a variety of capacities, ranging from providing direct advocacy and designing policy initiatives, to leading fundraising and diversity efforts.

Marc Hernandez, Principle Research Scientist, NORC, (AB Biological Sciences, AM Social Sciences, PhD Psychology 2009)

Marc Hernandez is a Principal Research Scientist and Director of NORC at the University of Chicago’s Early Childhood Research and Practice Collaborative. He graduated from the University with BAs in Biology, Psychology, a MA in Social Sciences, and a PhD in Developmental Psychology. His research and evaluation program focuses on identifying, developing, and evaluating programs interventions, tools, technologies, best practices, and policies designed to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged children, early in their lives. He has worked extensively in home, preschool and elementary school settings, with children, parents, educators, and administrators. Through the Collaborative, Hernandez partners closely with researchers, practitioners, nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies to develop and evaluate early-childhood programs, interventions, curricula, tools and assessments. Utilizing a whole-child, 360° approach to development, his work aims to produce tools and knowledge that will help illuminate what continuum of supports are necessary to close the opportunity gap.

Brittany McGhee, Next Generation Officer, Chicago Council on Global Affairs (MA International Relations 2013)

Brittany McGhee joined the Council in 2016 and currently serves as the next generation officer. Prior to joining the Council, McGhee managed an international young adult volunteer program through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Previously, she conducted quantitative and qualitative research at the University of Chicago on varying topics including gender, urbanism, and customary law in colonial West and Central Africa. McGhee earned a BA in global studies from Loyola University Maryland and an MA in international relations from the University of Chicago.


Melissa Navas, Director of Career Development, Institute of Politics, The University of Chicago (MPP 2019)

Melissa joined the IOP in January 2019 as Director of Career Development. Most recently, Melissa was deputy communications director for Multnomah County, Oregon’s most populous county. Previously, Melissa served as press secretary to current Oregon Governor Kate Brown and her predecessor John Kitzhaber. Melissa began her career as a newspaper journalist at The Oregonian writing about K-12 education and health. While at the newspaper, she investigated Oregon teachers’ sexual misconduct of students and the state’s backlog of educator discipline cases, which led to changes in state law. She is a graduate of Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Calif. and the University of Nevada, Reno. In June 2019, Melissa will earn her Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.