Student Profile

  • Christine Walker

    Christine Walker recalls one evening when she was leaving for yet another meeting about Schuyler, her autistic son. Her husband asked where she was going, and she replied, “I’m chasing hope.” Chasing Hope, LLC became the name of a consulting firm Walker formed to serve parents raising children with autism or a mental health condition. “You’re always chasing after solutions — a new school, a new medication, a new therapy. And we’re not the kind of parents who get neighbors bringing over casseroles. There’s social isolation, minimal information and insurance inequities. I want to make it easier for other parents and also drive legislative change.” 

    Walker’s firm will get a big boost from her new master’s in Public Policy and Administration degree from SCS. The program brings Walker back to her earlier career as a staffer on Capitol Hill. “I used to be a policy wonkette,” she says. “But despite my experience, the goals I have today would be hard to achieve without certain credentials or filling in knowledge gaps. Now, I can’t be dismissed as another ‘mom on a mission’ who has the passion, but doesn’t know the field.” 

    Even as her son’s autism was straining her family and her finances, Walker persevered in the MPPA program with her instructors’ support. “Statistics is my weak area, but Professor Stenzel was incredibly patient and understanding — we even joked about it,” she recalls. “Legislators respond to data, and I needed to become statistics savvy.” 

    Walker also credits SCS’ real-world learning and flexibility as critical to meeting her goals. “There are brilliant minds here, people who do public policy for a living, then come and teach you at 6:30. They bring up real problems and teach you how to solve them. I also took courses outside of MPPA, in the School of Education and Social Policy, and an independent study with Dr. Laurel Harbridge in Political Science. I studied the legislative intent of a landmark special education bill, which was crucial to my capstone project. Staff and instructors were always on my side, helping me to make it work.”