Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, October 25, 2010

Harvey seeks to improve public policy in fight against inequality, poverty

Hope Harvey


After graduating in May 2012 with her Master of Public Affairs, Hope Harvey will enroll in the sociology and social policy joint Ph.D. program at Harvard University.

Public Service

Hope Harvey was the alumni coordinator for the La Follette School Student Association during the 2011-12 school year.

A desire to fight poverty by improving public policy brought Hope Harvey to the La Follette School. She finds that her work experiences and coursework are helping her develop and practice the quantitative methods she needs understand the theoretical aspects of poverty and policies formed to alleviate it.

While working on her Master of Public Affairs, Harvey has worked in health and education policy. As an intern at the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, Harvey and then-student Jen Winter helped produce a report about the impact of the Wisconsin governor's budget proposals on women's health, well-being and economic security. "Throughout the budget process in the spring, we kept a blog to educate supporters about budget cuts to programs that affect women and girls," Harvey says. "We presented our findings to over 250 people at the Women's Health Policy Summit in May."

Harvey joined the New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit working to close the achievement gap by making sure high-need schools have effective teachers. "As a member of the human capital team, I work with applicants for a variety of positions at TNTP," Harvey says. "Applicants with strong résumés are invited to complete a hiring exercise that includes work similar to the day-to-day work in the position for which they are applying. I review these projects and conduct first-round interviews for candidates with strong projects."

This summer Harvey started a project assistantship with professors Don Moynihan and Pamela Herd to research red tape and Medicaid. "This research is exploring the variation between states in the level of administrative barriers that residents face as they apply for state Medicaid programs," Harvey says. "I am gathering data for their quantitative model and compiling case studies of specific states."

Harvey came to La Follette after spending a year with AmeriCorps as a case manager for a housing program in Texas called Caritas of Austin. The experience exposed her to the great diversity within the homeless population, from people with disabilities, to people recovering from drug addiction and in need of transitional shelter, to newly homeless families. "Because Caritas helps participants to obtain housing and income and to practice good self-care, this year exposed me to a multitude of poverty-fighting organizations, both governmental and nongovernmental," Harvey says. "Watching clients interact with these organizations has illuminated the gap between the idealized purpose of policy and its implementation and results."

The job deepened Harvey's connections to people as she discussed their experiences, fears and plans. "I have learned that although there is no generic face of poverty; the desire to be safe, healthy and able to pursue a better life is universal," she says. 

However, Harvey's desire to combat social inequality stems from more than a year in AmeriCorps: "I have felt the impact of anti-poverty policy since childhood," she says. "I lived in public housing. I ate food provided by food stamps, WIC and the free school lunch program. I was a first-generation college student, and I supported myself with a combination of education grants and summer work in factories. These experiences developed my keen awareness of inequality and fueled my desire to fight it through public policy."

While attending Carleton College in Minnesota, Harvey won a fellowship to research racial integration in Jefferson County, Kentucky. "This project deepened my understanding of the intersection between race and educational opportunity, and it furthered my interest in the role of education policy in reproducing inequality," she says. Her final paper won the American Sociological Association's annual undergraduate paper award in sociology of law.

Harvey says the La Follette School is a good fit for her interests and goals, especially the school's multidimensional approach in its emphasis on quantitative program evaluation and its consideration of politics and ethics. She also appreciates that a donation to the La Follette School helped to make her first year financially possible.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to attend La Follette," she says. "I am amazed by how much the school offers, from my course on statistical analysis to weekly open talks presented by the Institute for Research on Poverty."

After she graduates, Harvey plans to pursue a position as a policy analyst for an elected official or government agency or as a researcher at an institute, she says. "I will graduate from La Follette with the knowledge and experience I need to contribute to the betterment of anti-poverty policy through analysis, advocacy and research."

— updated June 4, 2012; May 10, 2017