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CEG Welcomes 2023 Cohort of Democracy Fellows

CHICAGO, IL — The Center for Effective Government (CEG) at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy announced its third cohort of Democracy Fellows, who join the Center for its yearlong fellowship. The five incoming Fellows will leverage their years of experience and expertise in public service, advocacy, policymaking, and civic engagement to grapple with issues of institutional reform and democracy. In the run-up to the 2024 election, set to be another contest marked by polarization and election integrity concerns, the expertise of the incoming Fellows is more important than ever, offering different perspectives on the route forward for our democracy. 

The 2023 CEG Democracy Fellows are:

  • Soren Dayton (AB’99) (@sorendayton): Director of Governance, Niskanen Center; former Policy Lead, Protect Democracy; former Deputy National Delegate Coordinator, John McCain. 

  • Nicole Bibbins Sedaca (@NicBibSed): Executive Vice President for Strategy and Programs, Freedom House; former Deputy Director, Georgetown University’s Master of Science in the Foreign Service (MSFS) program. 

  • Jennifer Pahlka (@pahlkadot): Co-Founder and Board Member, U.S. Digital Response; Author of Recoding America: Why Government Is Failing in the Digital Age and How We Can Do Better; former Founder and Executive Director, Code for America; former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer, The White House.

  • Ali Noorani (@anoorani): Program Director for U.S. Democracy, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; former President and CEO, National Immigration Forum; Author, Crossing Borders and There Goes the Neighborhood

  • Dan Tangherlini (AB’90, MPP’91) (@DanTangherlini): Managing Director, Emerson Collective; Governor, U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors; former Administrator, General Services Administration.

“Engaging with seasoned policy experts, advocates, and public servants is an opportunity to tap into an essential well of institutional knowledge,” said Sadia Sindhu, executive director of the Center for Effective Government. “Having worked in these systems, our Democracy Fellows know the pitfalls as well as the opportunities. Their experience allows them to provide innovative, feasible solutions to the urgent issues facing our democracy, illuminating the path toward more effective, durable institutions. We are excited for the opportunity to utilize the Democracy Fellows’ expertise and uplift their work this year.”

The Democracy Fellowship, launched in 2021, brings together a diverse set of leaders for in-depth analyses and stewardship of institutional reforms alongside members of the CEG and University community. During their yearlong affiliation with CEG, Fellows take part in robust programming including direct student interaction, convenings of key players in the reform space, and public engagement. Their efforts throughout the year are organized around a unifying theme that draws on each Fellow’s expertise and interests.

Incoming Fellow and University of Chicago graduate Soren Dayton (AB’99) said “The American political system is in a time of transition. The old order has failed to maintain the policy and political consensus, but a new one is not yet born. I am excited to spend the next year in dialogue with the students and faculty at the Center for Effective Government as we explore new ideas that are more responsive to the governance needs of our country.” 

“Recent mega-bills like the Inflation Reduction Act highlight how critical it is that government be able to deliver on its promises and intentions,” said Jennifer Pahlka. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside the Center for Effective Government as a Democracy Fellow to find thoughtful ways to strengthen the administrative state and bolster trust and faith in our democracy.” 

Ali Noorani said “An inclusive, durable democracy relies on an effective government that meets the needs of American workers and their families. The Center for Effective Government Democracy Fellowship affords the opportunity to explore new ways to think about the role of the public sector and how government can address some of the biggest challenges facing our nation.”

“American democracy is facing serious challenges, and every American citizen and institution has the responsibility and opportunity to work to reverse the decline we are seeing,” said Nicole Bibbins Sedaca. “Bringing my experience from Freedom House, I am delighted to be able to work alongside experts at the Center and the next generation of leaders at UChicago to discuss and work to strengthen our democratic institutions and norms. I’m thankful for the opportunity and partnership.”

“At every level of government – local, state and Federal – there are tens of thousands of vacant positions that translate into diminished outcomes and trust. However, the need for the next generation of public servants also represents an opportunity to bring new energy, approaches, and increased effectiveness to programs and services,” said Dan Tangherlini (AB’90, MPP’91). “I am looking forward to spending time in the coming year interacting both with this new generation of leaders and the brilliant faculty preparing them for the challenges ahead.” 

Pahlka will also take part in the Center’s Data and Democracy Initiative—a collaborative effort with the University of Chicago’s Data Science Institute that will delve into issues of democracy in the digital age through cross-disciplinary research and external engagement.  

Fellow programming will begin in the coming weeks, beginning with the first of our “Democracy Fellowship Days.” Soren Dayton (AB’99) will host a lunch-and-learn for UChicago students on Monday, October 30th at 1:00PM CT. 

Additional information on the Democracy Fellowship program and complete biographies of the 2023 Fellows can be found here.

Press contact: Megan Busbice, Program Associate, Center for Effective Government