Jonathan Hillman ’17
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My Story

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007 with a degree in political science, Jonathan Hillman joined the Obama campaign as an intern. He was eventually hired as a full-time field organizer in Wisconsin and came to love working in politics. He worked eight years on campaigns at all levels of government, mostly in the Greater Boston area, and he did community organizing and outreach for the Boston 2024 Olympic bid just before applying to Northeastern. Jonathan graduated with a Master of Public Policy in 2017. Here’s his Northeastern story…


“The experience at Boston 2024 was interesting to say the least, and drove me to better understand the intersection of politics and public policy, which led me to explore graduate school options outside of the campaign world.”

My Path
Why Public Policy?

After working in the campaign world for many years, Jonathan wanted to better understand the intersection of politics and public policy. It was during a conversation with professor Christopher Bosso, director of the Master of Public Policy, that he decided to pursue a degree at Northeastern.

“Throughout our conversation, I was really impressed with the program’s emphasis on real world applications in the curriculum. In addition, the diversity of the student body stood out to me compared to other local programs.”

Photo Credit: Eric Winter/Northeastern University
Transformative Coursework

Two courses stand out to Jonathan as particularly transformative. In POLS 6525 “Institutions and Public Policy,” taught by professor Christopher Bosso, Jonathan felt inspired by the lively weekly discussions that blended policy theory and real life case studies.

“There were only seven students in the class, and we all sat around a conference table inside Renaissance Park. It was such an intimate setting.”

For Jonathan, PPUA 7245 “Education Policy in the United States,” taught by Matthew Deninger, Policy and Planning Manager at the Massachusetts Department of Education, was just as transformative. Jonathan researched start times for Boston high schools and middle schools, and made a policy recommendation that all Boston middle and high schools should have a start time of 8:30 a.m.

“Just the level of real world expertise Matt brought made each class worthwhile.”

A sample of Jonathan's survey results. Courtesy photo

Jonathan completed an internship with professor Emily Mann where he worked on a comprehensive research project that looked at access and barriers to preschool utilization for families in Newton, MA. He created and administered a survey of Newton parents that garnered nearly 300 responses, and interviewed preschool directors and Newton administrative officials.

“Coincidentally, the two classes I took that summer, POLS 7202 ‘Quantitative Techniques’ and PPUA 6506 ‘Techniques of Policy Analysis,’ perfectly informed the skills I needed to both analyze my raw data as well as formulate my final report. The project was long, tedious, and at times frustrating, but the experience was incredibly valuable and taught me firsthand what it takes to build up a project like that from scratch.”

Experiential Learning

In spring 2017, Jonathan worked on his capstone project, a faculty-­guided team project for students completing course work in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. The capstone allows students to utilize what they have learned in their coursework in a real-world professional setting working on a project for a client. He studied the possible effects the Greater Boston housing market has on recruiting and retaining workers in the labor force.

Photo Credit: Eric Winter/Northeastern University

“I just think the program gives you both the professional skills to do the work, as well as the social and theoretical skills required to navigate the real-world personalities you inevitably encounter.”

Next Steps

Jonathan graduated in the summer 2017 with a research expertise in education and housing policy. His goal is to work in government, advocacy, or for an elected official as a policy advisor.

“If anyone reading this is apprehensive to apply because they’re not entirely sure what policy area they want to focus on, I just want to say: don’t worry about that. If you know you have a passion for government, policy and people, you will organically develop areas of interest and expertise. I had no idea education would become such a big part of my degree, but it just clicked. So for those wanderers like me, don’t be afraid to go for it.”

Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University
This was Jonathan's Northeastern Pathway... Where will yours lead?

School of Public Policy and Urban AffairsNortheastern University