Mallika Ahluwalia, who is from India, graduated cum laude from the Woodrow Wilson School with a Certificate in African Studies. She produced what one professor called "the best essay I have received from an undergraduate during my thirty years of teaching." In college, Mallika developed an interest in quantitative education research and policy analysis reflected in her senior thesis study of the education of orphans in sub-Saharan Africa.
For her Fellowship, Mallika moved to Chicago to work with Catalyst Chicago, a monthly newsmagazine dedicated to analyzing and supporting school improvement efforts in Chicago's public schools. Its goal is to give decision-makers and stakeholders the information they need to transform the city schools. Let's listen to Mallika tell about her special function during her fellowship year.
"My main project as a Reach Out Fellow at Catalyst Magazine was to supervise the creation of a 'Report Card – a data-driven publication that would document the progress in the Chicago public school system over the last ten years. I was given complete responsibility and independence in designing this document; my job, therefore, involved choosing the most appropriate topics and most relevant indicators to represent the changes, gathering and managing the data, and deciding the mode of presentation and accompanying analysis."
When the Report Card was published in February, the Publisher of Catalyst told Mallika she had done "a superb job. You asked the right questions, and found the answers. Bravo!" A senior executive in the Chicago public schools called it "fabulous. . . . a great job." And the Editor of Catalyst Chicago had this to say about her work.
Class of 2005
"Mallika has been a terrific addition to the editorial staff of Catalyst Chicago magazine. Her expert knowledge and analyses of data made it possible for us to complete a three-part series analyzing Chicago Public Schools' $5 billion budget, and to publish the inaugural edition of our District Report Card, a new product that will be updated annually. Pulling off these projects was no easy task. Mallika had to sift though mounds of statistics and negotiate conflicting interpretations of that data to produce compelling, statistical snapshots of teacher quality and mayoral control. Before she leaves in a few months, Mallika will create a template for future editions of the report card, including expanded versions with our own survey research and school-by-school data.
"Mallika has been a terrific resource for other editorial staffers, helping them collect and analyze data for cover stories and other news reports. In a short time, she has become an integral part of our team. We will be sorry to see her leave when the Fellowship ends."
After completing the fellowship, Mallika decided to focus on social policy in developing countries. She moved to Namibia for a year and a half to work with the United Nations World Food Program through the Princeton in Africa program. “I helped to run their programs on food assistance for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children, and Angolan refugees. My job included assessing the needs of these populations, improving program implementation and working closely with the government on their welfare policies."
Mallika is now wrapping up a three-year dual Masters at the Harvard Kennedy School (Master in Public Administration in International Development) and Harvard Business School (Master in Business Administration). Mallika says the joint degree was a good choice for her because: “My time in Namibia made me realize that many solutions to tough policy challenges will require cross-sectoral solutions”. After her graduation this May, Mallika will join McKinsey & Co. in their Washington, DC office,where she will work on a combination of public sector and private sector work. In a few years, Mallika plans to move back to India to work on social policy, particularly ensuring opportunities for women and children.
Mallika recently reflected on her experience: "This Fellowship was a very valuable work experience because of the high degree of responsibility and independence I was given – a rare occurrence in one's first job. I really believe that getting that level of responsibility out of the door empowered me to look for that in later roles, and definitely helped me demonstrate my leadership ability to get into a top graduate school.”
Mallika concludes on this note: “I’m thrilled that the Fellowship has now expanded to international opportunities too. Winning the Fellowship allowed me to combine my interests in education and data analysis in a manner that was both interesting and informative. I think the biggest advantage of Reach Out is precisely that instead of being limited by available jobs, it allows the applicant to design a project that exactly meets one's interests and future goals."