People

Alumni Spotlight: Janae Ladet, MPA '16

November 15, 2016

Janae Ladet, MPA '16, is currently a Policy and Research Program Manager at the Urban Institute, a Washington DC-based think tank that conducts economic and social policy research. Fels student Meghan Pierce, MPA '18, sat down with Janae to discuss the Urban Institute, her career, and Fels.

Please describe your organization and its mission:

I work for the Urban Institute, which researches and evaluates social and economic policy. Urban’s work engages communities at multiple levels—city, state, and county to gather data and evaluate programs. Within Urban, I work for the Policy Advisory group, which collaborates with scholars across the institute to develop insights from existing work in order to create products and projects that systematically translate what we know into strategies for actionable work on the ground. I work with a team of researchers and the private sector to diagnose problems and find solutions, and provide objective analysis to today’s critical policy debates in a rapidly urbanizing world.

Please describe your position and the duties it entails:

I am a Policy and Research Program Manager at the Urban Institute within the the Policy Advisory Group. I manage a portfolio of work in partnership with JPMorgan Chase that focuses on several policy areas, including affordable housing, community development, and workforce development. I manage project budgets, track project deliverables, manage funder reporting, help develop programming, and manage the dissemination of research products to important stakeholders.

How did you become interested in this work?

I have always been passionate about issues concerning equity and access for low and moderate income families and communities of color, mostly because of my personal background. I care deeply about community revitalization and equitable development. Prior to graduate school, I worked at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which was my first real experience in community and economic development. My professional experiences in local government continued to develop me as a practitioner in the field. I’m particularly interested in preserving affordability in neighborhoods that are experiencing housing market pressures, and strongly believe that families should have the right to live in the neighborhoods with access to quality homes, transportation, good schools, and safe and healthy environments. Much of my career choices have been guided by my beliefs in fairness and access.

How has Fels helped you in your career?

You can’t talk about community development without talking about finance. At Fels, I was able to gain a Certificate in Public Finance and had the opportunity to learn about municipal bonds, local government and the budgeting process, social finance, and other funding and finance strategies. I have used many of these skills at my previous jobs and in my current position. Fels flexible curriculum also allows students to gain practical experience while obtaining their degree. I was able to work for the Council President on an affordable housing workgroup and also at Philadelphia’s Commerce Department. These served as valuable experiences and gave me a competitive edge during my job search.

What was your favorite Fels course and why?

My favorite class at Fels was the budgeting class led by Folasade (Sade) A. Olanipekun-Lewis. The entire semester was a group assignment in which students had to create a budget for the City of Philadelphia. We had to make difficult decisions about which programs to cut and how to restructure existing taxes. She was really wonderful and forced students to critically think about cost implications. She taught us that budgets reflect priorities, and I think it’s important for students to be able to shift through rhetoric and look at what gets funded: those decisions communicate an administration’s priorities.

What advice do you have for current Fels students? 

My one piece of advice is to take advantage of the Fels network and the valuable resources at Penn. The City of Philadelphia is a great place to study local government, so I highly encourage students to get involved with an organization whose mission aligns with your personal values. Take advantage of this time to develop, not only academically and intellectually, but professionally.

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu