August 17, 2016

By Institute of Politics

(Clockwise from top left: Liesl Hickey, Michael Morell, DeRay Mckesson, Bruce Reed, Phil Revzin, Kirsten Kukowski, and Douglas Alexander)

The University of Chicago Institute of Politics today announced seven Fellows who will come to campus during the upcoming Fall Quarter. Seminar sign-up begin Sept. 12.

  • Liesl Hickey, a veteran Republican political strategist who led the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) during the GOP’s 13-seat pickup in 2014
  • Kirsten Kukowski, a GOP media strategist who ran communications at this summer’s Republican National Convention and also served as communications director for Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign
  • DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist and a co-founder of Campaign Zero to end police violence
  • Michael Morell, former Deputy Director and twice Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the Obama Administration and one of the nation’s leading national security professionals
  • Bruce Reed, a domestic policy expert who served for more than a decade as a top White House policy adviser in both the Clinton and Obama administrations
  • Phil Revzin, former publisher of the Wall Street Journal Europe and former Editor at Large at Bloomberg News, with more than 40 years of experience reporting and editing in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.
  • Douglas Alexander, a former British Labour politician who served as Shadow Foreign Secretary and Member of Parliament

“At a time of such national and international turmoil, from police violence in this country to the threat of ISIS abroad, we are fortunate to have this group of Fellows here to engage our students on a wide range of issues,” IOP director David Axelrod said. “And with the presidential election only a few months away, the chance to hear from experienced strategists is one that I know our students will relish.”

While on campus next quarter, the seven Fellows will interact with students and faculty, participate in public forums and, along with guests, lead off-the-record seminars; the six Resident Fellows will teach four- to eight-week seminars, while Alexander, a Visiting Fellow, will be on campus for a one week engagement in November. 

Political strategist Hickey has spent her career helping Republicans expand their reach in swing areas across the country. During this election cycle, she has been an advisor to the NRCC, the Jeb Bush-affiliated Right to Rise Super PAC, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and the ClearPath Action Fund. She was also a chief of staff to then-U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). In her upcoming seminar series, Hickey will focus on Congressional races, and the top-of-the-ticket impact on these contests, especially in swing districts, as well as tracking the 2016 presidential race and discussing the future of the Republican Party.  

Kukowski, a seasoned GOP political operative who served as national press secretary for the Republican National Committee, will offer a behind-the-scenes look at this year’s Republican presidential race and life inside political campaigns, with a focus on the changing role of the Republican Party, its future, and the ways in which Donald Trump has upended the party and presidential politics as we know it.

Mckesson, a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement, has been in the public eye speaking out against excessive use of force by police and advocating for reform since the August 2014 protests in Ferguson. Mckesson in 2015 co-founded Campaign Zero, a comprehensive platform to end police violence, and in 2016 ran for Baltimore mayor. Prior to that, Mckesson worked in public schools in Baltimore and Minneapolis. At the IOP this fall, Mckesson will lead a seminar series focused on social justice, social media, and organizing. Mckesson’s seminars are part of a larger discussion at the Institute of Politics this year examining a range of strategies aimed at affecting social change.

Morell, who left the CIA in 2013 after a 33-year career at the center of the U.S. fight against terrorism, is the author of The New York Times bestseller on the CIA’s nearly 20-year fight against al Qaida, “The Great War of Our Time: An Insider’s Account of the CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism – From Al Qaida to ISIS.” His seminar series, entitled “Inside the CIA: The Business of Intelligence,” will include discussion of enhanced interrogation techniques, U.S. intelligence failures regarding the possession of weapons of mass destruction by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, and the 2011 operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

In the Obama Administration, Reed served as Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden, working on economic, fiscal, and tax policy, education, and gun violence. He previously served as President Clinton’s chief domestic policy advisor and as executive director of the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction commission and lead author of its report. Reed will lead a seminar series entitled “Hacks and Wonks: The Politics of Ideas,” which will take a close look at how candidates and presidents think and will track the presidential contest through Election Day.

An award-winning journalist who worked as reporter, bureau chief, editor, publisher and vice president of The Wall Street Journal in Cleveland, New York, London, Paris, Brussels and Hong Kong, Revzin covered world economic issues, the lead up to and aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Asia’s rise as an economic force. He also interviewed leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Francois Mitterand, and Jacques Chirac. A native of South Shore and lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, Revzin will lead a seminar series called “The Whole World is Watching: How Global Events Will Shape and be Shaped by the 2016 Election.” During his eight seminars, Revzin will explore how what’s happening in the world will affect the U.S. election, and how that election will affect the world.

Alexander, who served as Minister of State for Europe in former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet and as Labour Party leader Ed Miliband’s election strategist in last year’s general election in Britain, will discuss how the United Kingdom can move forward after Brexit, the rise of populism there, and the future of the European Union. His seminar series will take place the week of November 14.

Please join us at the IOP on Sept. 20 at 4p to meet the Fellows and learn more about their seminars.

Since its launch in January 2013 the IOP has hosted 69 Fellows, including former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, former speechwriter for President Obama Jon Favreau, Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report, GOP strategist Stuart Stevens, former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani, and former New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson. The IOP’s Fellows in Residence program is generously supported by the Pritzker Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

For more information about the IOP Fellowship Program, please visit and follow the IOP on Facebook and Twitter.


The Institute of Politics is a nonpartisan extracurricular program designed to ignite in University of Chicago students a passion for politics and public service. Three programs form the core of the initiative: a resident fellows program where political officials, policymakers, journalists and others involved in politics and policy share their experiences with students and others over an academic quarter; an expanded set of policy and public interest internships and civic engagement projects; and a continuous series of public speakers discussing current events and political life.

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