GRADUCon 2021 - Careers in Think Tanks


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.


Martha Ross, Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institution (MA, School of Social Service Administration, 1999) 

Martha Ross is a senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. She researches and writes about workers and the labor market, with a focus on creating a healthy economy that offers opportunity for all. Her recent work highlights low-wage workers, out-of-work young people and adults, the education and employment experiences of 18- to 24-year-olds, and pathways to good jobs for young people. Prior to joining Brookings, Martha was a presidential management fellow in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, where she focused on welfare policy. She has a master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and a bachelor’s degree from Colorado College.

Zeenat Rahman, Director of the Inclusive America Project, Aspen Institute (MA, Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago, 2006)

Zeenat Rahman is an expert on global youth issues, interfaith and diversity engagement, and is a former diplomat. Her experience spans national security, foreign policy, and leadership development through work in government, private sector, and NGOs, effectively bridging the gap between policy and community solutions. Zeenat was recently a Presidential Political Appointee, serving as Special Adviser to Secretaries Clinton and Kerry on Global Youth Issues at the U.S. Department of State. Prior to this appointment, she served as Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the United States Agency for International Development. Zeenat is a frequent speaker and commentator who has spoken at venues such as the United Nations, the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, and the White House and appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and many international news outlets. She is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the British Council’s Transatlantic Network 2020, a Truman National Security Fellow, and a Next Generation Project Fellow. She received a master’s degree in Middle East studies from the University of Chicago, and a BA in psychology from the University of Illinois.

Alexandra Stanczyk, Researcher, Mathematica (PhD, Social Service Administration, University of Chicago, 2016)

Alexandra Stanczyk is a researcher in the human services division at Mathematica, a public policy research firm. Her research focuses on the impact and implementation of public policies and programs that serve less-advantaged people and families. Her work includes studies of TANF and employment programs, work-family policy and job quality, nutrition programs, child welfare, youth programs, and healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood programs. Prior to Mathematica, Alexandra was a research associate at the Urban Institute and a postdoctoral scholar at the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare. She earned a PhD and AM (MSW equivalent) from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.

Reja Younis, Program Manager and Research Associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) (Masters, International Relations, University of Chicago, 2018)

Reja Younis is the program manager and a research associate with the Project on Nuclear Issues in the International Security Program at CSIS. Prior to working at CSIS, she completed a year-long fellowship with The Stimson Center, where she conducted research on nuclear deterrence challenges, crisis dynamics, and great power competition in the context of South Asia. She has also worked as a research analyst for the Chicago Project on Political Violence and has served as an editorial writer and subeditor of the Opinion and Editorial section for the Tribune newspaper. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and liberal arts from the Institute of Business Administration Karachi and a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago.


Matthias Staisch, Assistant Senior Instructional Professor, Committee on International Relations, University of Chicago (PhD, Political Science and Government, University of Chicago, 2014)

Matthias Staisch is Assistant Senior Instructional Professor in the Committee on International Relations (CIR) at UChicago.  He oversees CIR’s core curriculum and teaches courses on international political economy and international relations theory. His research focuses on the evolution of multilateralism and the turn to network theory in international thought. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from UChicago and M.A. degrees from UChicago and Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen.