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.


Jim Lewis, Director, Senior Vice President, Center for Strategic and International Studies (PhD History 1984)

James Andrew Lewis is a Senior Vice President at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  Before joining CSIS, he worked at the Departments of State and Commerce as a Foreign Service Officer and as a member of the Senior Executive Service.  His government experience includes a broad range of political-military, negotiating and intelligence assignments. Lewis was an advisor to the U.S. Southern Command for Operation Just Cause, the U.S. Central Command for Operation Desert Shield, and to the U.S. Central American Task Force.  He led the U.S. delegation to the Wassenaar Arrangement Experts Group on advanced civilian and military technologies.  He worked on Presidential policies for arms transfers, commercial space remote sensing, and on the policies to secure and commercialize the internet and on encryption and lawful access to communications.  He was the Commerce Department lead for national security and espionage concerns related to high-tech trade with China. Lewis was the Rapporteur for the UN's Group of Government Experts on Information Security for the successful 2010, 2013, and 2015 sessions.  He has led long-running Track 1.5 discussions on cybersecurity with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.  He has served on several Federal Advisory Committees, including as Chair of the Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing as well as a member of the Committees on Spectrum Management and International Communications Policy, and as an advisor on the security implications of foreign investment in the U.S. Lewis has authored numerous publications since coming to CSIS on a broad array of topics, including innovation, space, information technology, globalization, deterrence, and surveillance.  He was the Director for CSIS’s Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency and is an internationally recognized expert on cybersecurity who is frequently quoted in the media.  He has testified numerous times before Congress.  Lewis’s current research examines the effect of technology on warfare, and how the internet has changed politics.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. LinkedIn

Michael Pergamit, Senior Fellow, The Urban Institute (PhD Economics 1983)

Michael Pergamit is a Senior Fellow in the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC, where he has worked since 2008. His research focuses on vulnerable youth at the transition to adulthood, especially youth aging out of foster care and runaway and homeless youth. He has studied numerous other issues including access and use of public benefits and supportive housing. His research employs experimental, quasi-experimental, and nonexperimental methods and frequently combines both quantitative and qualitative components. His prior positions at NORC at the University of Chicago and at the Bureau of Labor Statistics have also given him a background in survey design and analysis. LinkedIn

Elizabeth Kneebone, Fellow, Brookings Institution (MPP 2003)

Elizabeth Kneebone is a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings and co-author of Confronting Suburban Poverty in America (Brookings Press, 2013). Her work primarily focuses on urban and suburban poverty and the ways in which neighborhoods and regions shape access to opportunity. Prior to joining Brookings, Kneebone worked as a research project manager for IFF (formerly the Illinois Facilities Fund), where she conducted geographic assessments of service gaps in programs targeted to low-income children and families. She holds a Master’s from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and a bachelor’s degree in history from Indiana University. LinkedIn

Kathryn Connor, Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation (MPP 2004)

Ms. Connor has 14 years of experience in public policy analysis, cost analysis, force structure and logistics. She has experience with acquisition and life cycle cost estimating, program evaluation, and process mapping. She is a Policy Researcher at RAND that has led and contributed to a variety of cost evaluations and models. Her work crosses the government program space with topics including evaluating integrated care interventions for NIH, VA's medical foster home program, analyzing cost of alternatives for a undersea clandestine insertion, estimating the cost implications of autonomous technologies on military units, developing a model to lower the cost of aircraft carriers, estimating the cost of service oriented architecture, and evaluating the behavioral interventions for the CDC. Connor has held positions as a Research Fellow at LMI and Coordinator at Greater Oakland Keystone Innovation Zone for technology based economic development. She is a member of the International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association and is a certified cost estimator/analyst. She has a BA in Economics and International Studies from Baylor University, and a Masters in Public Policy from the Harris School at the University of Chicago. LinkedIn


Sam Ori, Executive Director, Energy Policy Institute at UChicago (MPP 2003)

Sam Ori is the Executive Director at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). From 2013 to 2015, he served as Executive Vice President at Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), a Washington, DC-based organization dedicated to reducing American oil dependence in order to enhance economic and national security. From 2007 to 2013, Sam led SAFE’s policy work on a variety of topics, ranging from global oil and natural gas markets to transportation technology. Prior to joining SAFE, Sam spent four years working in the federal government at the Broadcasting Board of Governors and Department of State, including at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India.