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Tackling the Tough Ones

Thursday, June 28, 2018
Katie Gan posing in Cadiz, Spain, on her annual bike trip.

Katie Gan poses in Cadiz, Spain, on an annual biking trip.

D.C.-based alumna draws on broad liberal arts perspective and scientific methods to solve societal problems

Katie Gan '03, B.A. Sociology and Economics

by Mary Denny

For many people, community service is a part-time volunteer commitment outside of their careers. For Katie Gan, community service is her career—and one she approaches as a scientist with an eye to analyzing and improving social policies and programs.

Growing up in Dallas where she attended a gifted and talented magnet school, Katie arrived at Trinity in 1999 with no plans or career paths in mind. She came for the broad liberal arts education, but early on, two courses—“Sociology of Gender Roles” with sociology professor Sheryl Tynes and “Introduction to Economics” with economics professor Rich Butler—opened her eyes to new perspectives. She earned degrees in both disciplines, and their integrated skills and models laid the foundation for her career. The next step was Harvard, where she entered a Ph.D. program in sociology and social policy. During her years at Harvard, she served as a research assistant, a teaching assistant, and became proficient in no fewer than ten data analytic software “languages.”

In 2010 she joined Abt Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based global leader in health, social and environmental policy, and international development that provides evidence-based evaluations for federal clients such as the Department of Labor and Department of Education. As a senior analyst, her first assignment was to study the AmeriCorps program, determine participants’ post-service outcomes, and recommend ways the program could add value. During her six-year tenure with Abt, she moved from the Cambridge, Mass., office to Washington, D.C., where as a senior scientist she tested and evaluated national social programs that dealt with a variety of issues such as chronic homelessness, cancer care delivery, and natural infrastructure.

Headshot of Katie Gan

Last January, Katie narrowed her focus, joining the Lab@DC as a senior social scientist, where she is part of a multi-disciplinary team in Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration that works with a wide range of local agencies. Using scientific insights and methods to test local policies and program, she provides timely, relevant, and high-quality analysis to inform the District’s most important decisions. Her first project with the Lab was to help keep needy residents from losing their housing benefits. Currently, she is studying and evaluating truancy prevention programs in the D.C. area. She loves the challenge of applying skills she learned in school to take a problem apart, analyze it, and devise improvements. Her greatest satisfaction comes from actually having an impact on the people around her. Doing good research and developing policies that produce positive outcomes keep her motivated.

When she’s not making her community a better place, Katie enjoys baking, biking, her dog Jamon, and hanging out in the city. “It’s exciting to be around politics,” she says. She and her husband, a federal employee, also enjoy annual hundred-mile-plus international bike trips. Some recent favorites were in Catalonia, Spain, and Budapest, Hungary. Ironically, despite her intense focus on social problems, Katie admits, “I’m not very connected to social media,” adding with a smile, “I still use a flip phone.”

You can contact Katie at gan.katie [at] gmail.com.