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Meet Data and Policy Summer Scholar Program alumni and hear of their experiences.
Connect with a program alum through the Connect with Program Alumni form, and by hearing our recent webinars with alumni.
View participant outcomes for the program.
Wrojensky decided to study economics after witnessing poverty in his native country of Haiti. While at Florida State University getting his bachelors, professors advised him to explore policy and development. He received a National Science Foundation fellowship to join the economics master’s program at Pennsylvania State University, and is now completing the Harris one-year Master of Arts in Public Policy.
Participating in DPSS helped Wrojensky be better prepared to start his Harris career. He is seeking to enter into international investment banking after graduating, and the data skills he learned will be critical in this field.
“Transitioning from undergrad to master’s level was challenging when I made the jump a few years ago, and I didn’t want the same thing to happen at Harris. After completing DPSS, I felt much better prepared than when I’d enrolled at Penn State.”
Read Wrojensky’s student profile.
Alexandra has always loved math and its power to tell the truth about what is happening in the real world. She looked to apply her passion in an impactful career, so she decided to enter the education field. After getting her Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary Education from Penn State University in 2014 and her Master’s in Education from the University of Central Florida, she entered the higher education sector.
Through each position, Alexandra found herself growing curious about the policies that affect education in the United States. DPSS proved to be a route through which she could build the data skills needed to answer these questions.
“The fact that DPSS was virtual allowed me to access the program in a way that I wouldn’t have if it meant putting a pause on my career, so I was really excited for this opportunity for professional development.”
Read Alexandra’s student profile.
Originally from India with an undergraduate degree in Design, Sanika’s educational experience led her to become more curious about how human behavior influences policy and design in the social sector. She chose DPSS as a way to explore her budding interest in policy and experience what attending graduate school is like in the United States.
Sanika is currently paving her path by engaging with policy through a design lens at Carnegie Mellon. Her master’s thesis focuses on designing methods and tools for participatory policy-making with a focus on futures and foresight. She is exploring how decision-making processes organizations and other policy issue areas can be tackled through a participatory futures approach.
“I loved the level of energy and knowledge that others brought to DPSS. It was a very productive space to be in. DPSS allowed me to feel more comfortable having conversations with people from different."
Read Sanika's full story in her Alumni Profile.
Miyu is a senior at Keio University majoring in Economics with a focus on Development Economics. Eager to create social impact, she taught at a girls’ school in Tanzania, which strengthened her passion for volunteering and youth empowerment through education. The volunteering experience later encouraged her to conduct formal research by evaluating the impacts of conditional cash transfers on educational outcomes in Tanzania. Through the DPSS program, she wanted to attain formal training in R programming in order to creatively manipulate and process data to answer intriguing policy-related questions.
“One of my favorite parts about DPSS is the Policy in Action workshops—we get to hear from policy practitioners across disciplines, learn about their journeys, and see how their work makes an impact in the world.”
Here Miyu share more in her video interview.
A Wisconsin native and University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Brandon never imagined he would enter an international development career. He decided to answer a call to move abroad and get his Master’s Degree of Management Science at the University of Science and Technology of China, where he would also learn Mandarin and open a brewery. He subsequently served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru, and now he coordinates funds for global health initiatives for Lions Club International.
Brandon has used his experience at DPSS as a means back into academia. He is awaiting results from Economics PhD applications, which he hopes to use as a springboard further into the fight to end global poverty.
"I was especially drawn to DPPS because of the program’s focus on research—it helped me solidify my decision to pursue a PhD. My DPSS experience was sort of my nudge and affirmation that I can do this—that sort of intense academic life after a couple of years of working.”
Read Brandon’s alumni profile.
Yuqing is a senior at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics majoring in Applied Mathematics and Finance Statistics. He devotes a lot of his time to mathematical and statistical modelling and wanted to extend his knowledge to real-world problems by joining the DPSS program. In his previous work at Bloomberg Academy, he guided his team on trade-war policies and policy analysis. Through his work, he learned how to translate raw data to current affairs and media. With a long term goal to deepen his understanding of data and policy, he plans to advance in the sector after gaining new skills through the DPSS program.
“I deeply understand the meaning of the slogan: Social Impact, Down to a Science. With the DPSS capstone project, I learned to analyze complex real-world data with tools that streamline the process. And I made friends across the world—thanks to the German language interest group, Miguel and I will continue practicing German together after DPSS.”
From Sao Paulo, Brazil, Maria is soon to graduate with a Bachelor of Laws from Pontificia Universidade Catolica Do Rio De Janeiro. During her time in university, she studied corporate law and eventually moved to technology law where she found a place to explore her interests in both computer science and law.
She turned to DPSS as a way to experience graduate school in the United States and learn more about data science tools, which she hopes to incorporate into her legal toolkit. In Spring 2021, Maria will be attending Columbia University’s visiting post-bachelor student program in Computer Science to pursue her passion for technology law.
“DPSS was amazing. As a lawyer, I was afraid I would struggle with the quantitative skills, but all the staff was so helpful, and Professor Wright was a great lecturer.”
Read Maria's full story in her profile.
Meera is currently a sophomore majoring in History and Politics at Krea University in South India. As a part of the first cohort students at Krea University, Meera saw an opportunity to realize her interest in student government and policy by establishing Krea University’s first student council and co-authoring the University’s Student Constitution. Meera gained further interest in education policy through her time tutoring at local orphanages.
Meera gained exposure to data-driven policy thinking through DPSS. The program helped her see how data can help advance her many policy areas of interest.
“My experience with DPSS was phenomenal. It gave me clarity on the kind of future I see for myself. DPSS taught me to collect and use data in ways I have not been taught in school.”
Read more about Meera in her profile.
Esnold is a senior at Paul Quinn College studying Political Science. Inspired to work towards directing state resources to those who need them most, he has been learning about the roles of various stakeholders who play a key part in creating policies. He aims to help policymakers in the formulation, evaluation, and implementation of policy programs using data and evidence. Through the DPSS program, Esnold wanted to gain first-hand experience analyzing policies through an empirical framework used by policy practitioners. He also wanted to learn about policy experiences from the diverse group of students in the program while also sharing insight from his own multicultural background.
“I enjoyed the group discussions led by both staff and students. I had the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their current roles and career plans. I also appreciated the office hours, especially with Professor Wright, because that's the place to test your ideas and find solutions. There was always an opportunity to discover something new or reinforce a concept.”
Hear Esnold's experience in his video interview.
Xiaoyun is a graduate of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE) with experience in the financial industry as well as public policy. Xiaoyun most recently worked on strategic planning and branding projects for NGO clients in China.
Xiaoyun chose DPSS as a way to explore her budding interest in public policy and experience evidence-based research. Through DPSS’ data-driven emphasis on public policy, she feels more confident with applying advanced mathematical concepts and has gained a better understanding of what drives policy decisions. In fall of 2021, Xiaoyun will enroll in the Master of Public Policy program at Harris Public Policy.
“It was very interesting and very helpful for us to solve real-world problems. I now feel more comfortable with the quantitative side of public policy.”
Learn more of Xiaoyun's story.
With a diverse professional background in writing and design, Amanda currently works as a Content Designer at IBM. With an educational background in journalism, Amanda wanted to fill the gap between open-ended questions and cautious conclusions with quantifiable insights. She pursued the DPSS program to gain the tools to understand the interpersonal and socioeconomic impacts of technology and information policy. Looking to pivot to a more data-oriented policy role, Amanda chose the DPSS program equip her with the skills to change careers. She is now working on applications to graduate programs in public policy.
“The capstone project was my favorite part of the program, as it allowed me to express my own creativity and dive into things I am passionate about. Even when we were working as a group, the program staff encouraged us to go beyond the rubric to explore our individual interests.”
Hear Amanda's experience in her video interview.
Raymond graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Systems Engineering in 2018. Since graduation, he has worked as a process and manufacturing engineer for 3M, where he has led two major Lean Six Sigma Green belt projects amongst several others and financial benefits of over 400k combined.
In his free time, Raymond enjoys coaching speech and debate for a local high school, advising a team of about 50 students. He is also a University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering Mentor, equity task force member, and researcher for the Minnesota Debate Teacher Association, most recently researching systemic bias within the debate. Raymond turned to DPSS as a way to explore his growing interests in education and social science.
“The DPSS program was one of the only programs that had the emphasis I wanted: data-driven, highly analytical but also in the field of social science. I don’t think there are many programs that offer that.”
Read more about Raymond in his profile.
Tatiana is a sophomore majoring in psychology and public policy at Claremont McKenna College. She strives to better understand others’ experiences through psychology and help the underserved through education and policy.
While Tatiana was in the DPSS program learning more about public policy, she also gained more experience in education through her internship with the Center for Black Educator Development, where she taught underserved children in her community how to read and explore their identity.
After her experience with the program, she feels more comfortable with data analysis including programming in R, and more certainty in her interest in public policy.
“In the DPSS program, you are able to work one-on-one with professors. You can collaborate with peers on problem sets and coding. The quantitative analysis portion of DPSS really attracted me and was a valuable part of the program. I was able to take what I learned and utilize it to produce my very first capstone project. I am very grateful for my experience.”
Read more in Tatiana's alumni profile.
Irene is a media professional at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University. Growing up in the West Phoenix Valley in Arizona and recognizing social and racial injustices in disadvantaged communities, she made it her mission to advocate for systematically oppressed populations. She hopes to shift today’s media landscape by accurately representing the perspectives of disenfranchised communities as an advocate, content creator, intersectional thinker, and change-maker. In the fall of 2019, Irene will intern at the U.S. House of Representatives at the office of Debra Haaland, one of the two first Native American women to serve in Congress, in Washington D.C. through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
“Through DPSS I came to better understand the importance of data in policymaking. Having this data and quantitative analysis awareness will give me the edge that is necessary when it comes to reporting, and when it comes to producing evidence-based writing."
Simon was a senior at University of California Los Angeles, majoring in applied mathematics and minoring in philosophy, went he joined DPSS. He chose the program to connect his analytic and liberal arts backgrounds and apply the quantitative skills to issues he is passionate about, such as international relations. In his capstone project, Simon worked with Dr. Kara Ross Camarena to aid in her research into refugee camps and the political economy of migration. Simon aims to apply the quantitative analysis and R programming he learned in the program to his coursework in the fall. In the fall of 2021, Simon started the Master of Public Policy program at Harris.
“The work we're doing really allowed us to apply the skills we learned throughout this program, as well as think about some of the important policies that needs to be addressed in this world today. I really love the faculty here. I've got to talk to a few of them about my possible future, career-wise or academic. They've been really helpful in terms of helping me think about what my next step is in my life.”
Read more about Simon in his profile.
Kristen was a junior at Soka University of America in southern California, studying humanities with an emphasis on law, history, and critical race theory. Kristen attended the program seeking a taste of quantitative analysis to balance her liberal arts education. She plans on applying the mathematics and computer programming she learned at UChicago toward her senior capstone project at Soka.
“Despite my lack of background in quantitative analysis and (computer) programming, I felt comfortable in the classroom to ask my questions, because I know that all of my classmates are at different stages, and some know more than others. We really collaborate in the classroom and outside of the classroom, as well. I always have support—not only from faculty, but also my own classmates. And I now have a very firm foundation in both quantitative analysis and R programming language that I can take beyond this program.”
Learn more in Kristen's video.
María is a graduate of Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México with a bachelors in Political Science. Her interest in understanding how policy impacts daily life influenced her choice to attend the 2018 Data and Policy Summer Scholar Program. María returned to UChicago Harris Public Policy as a full-time Research Assistant, and supported the 2019 program as a Teaching Fellow and Resident Assistant. She started her PhD in Government at Harvard University in fall of 2020.
"The biggest impact was getting to work with so many exceptional people from all around the world. The capstone project allowed us to work closely with both professors and peers in several fields, all of whom have different outlooks on a specific problem. Living in the dorms and exploring the city was a great balance of fun and social engagement to our studies. The group’s diverse backgrounds made the program an enriching and mind-opening experience."
Read more in María’s blog post.
Manish studies economics and marketing at the University of Canterbury. Wanting to supplement his knowledge of statistics with a foundation in computer programming, Muthukrishnan attended the program to learn the computer programming language R. While at UChicago, he used R to analyze data on racial segregation in Chicago housing and to create a visual representation to communicate the scope of the problem.
“I've always been in public policy, but the data element and how you can incorporate that into public policy is something that DPSS has really given me. After this, I want to go back and continue learning R, and add Python to it. That will be really useful in my career, and the impact that I can have on my community.”
Learn more in Manish's video.
Jessica is a recent graduate of the University of International Business Economics in China. As an economics major Jessica has a solid knowledge of the theoretical side. She chose this program to learn more about policy and the application side, which is part of the reason why she enjoyed the policy series the most. In fall of 2019 she started the Master of Arts in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods at Harris.
“What impressed me the most was the ability to ask all of our questions. we were able to ask questions at any time in class, and there were office hours every day after class for us to ask more questions. This ability and opportunity to connect with faculty and engage the course content was different from my undergraduate experience.”
Kevin recently completed his bachelor’s degree in Intellectual History from Williams College. Pivoting from a liberal arts background with an interest to develop a data toolkit, he knew the DPSS program at UChicago Harris would be a natural fit. Kevin is an incoming Fellow at Venture for America currently working in venture capital.
“The DPSS program helped me build my quantitative toolkit and policy-oriented framework to thoughtfully engage in policy debates. My current role in venture capital builds upon the coding skills I learned at Harris, while the policy foundations and debates we grappled with have proven invaluable as I immerse myself in the tech world. Professor Wright demonstrated that working for the public good is not accomplished only by government officials, but the responsibility of a diverse group of actors working together.”
Hear more from Kevin in his recent webinar.
Mayra graduated from the Universidad de Monterrey with a double bachelor’s in Political Science & Public Administration and International Affairs. Prior to the program she was a researcher for TOJIL, a non-profit civil association, and a Director of International Affairs at the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples. Wanting to focus on public policy, Mayra saw the program as a crucial preparatory step for graduate study—or any policy job. She worked as an Account Supervisor at Edelman Public Affairs Practice before starting her Master of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.
“Through this program I learned that I can push myself, and get out of my comfort zone to learn new skills and to do things I never thought I could do before. This was most apparent in our capstone project, which explored how the demographics of refugee camps have shifted to include more women and children. It was challenging and rewarding to accomplish so much in so little time.”
Ruobing is currently studying computer science and economics at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where he works as a teaching assistant for the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. He worked as a student mentor for a Bloomberg Workshop to analyze the stock market and financial trends. Ruobing decided to join the program to learn the economics behind programming systems and network within UChicago.
“This program offers opportunity to build your network. Not only did I meet with university admission advisers, but also with current graduate students and professionals. For example, I had coffee with a student who has almost two decades of experience working in global finance and policy. It was really helpful to talk with him about his experience, work, and how he applies the course materials. We are now connected through LinkedIn.”
Yangzhou is an aspiring data journalist. Before entering her fourth year at Fudan University’s School of Journalism, Yangzhou was actively seeking data science and quantitative skills. She chose this program to become equipped with the analytical and programming skills to conduct in-depth reporting. Yangzhou interned at international organization and technology companies before returning to Harris in fall of 2020 as a graduate student in our MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy.
"Within three-weeks of intensive learning with econometrics and R, we could apply these tools in real-world data sets and give suggestions on policy issues. I was amazed to find that I could visualize the data and conduct analysis with the knowledge I learnt just few weeks ago."
Read more in Yangzhou’s blog post.
Cecilia is a junior at New York University Shanghai, where she is earning a bachelor’s degree in Interactive Media Arts. She studies and artistically interprets the connections between new media technology and the physical world. Cecilia chose the program to learn how to use data to help solve real-world problems through policy—a skill she thinks will be invaluable in her post-college career.
“It really helped me a lot in thinking about how to analyze a situation and what kind of information I will have to seek to support my evidence. One thing I learned is to never be too hasty to draw conclusions from your evidence. That logic and that mindset really helped me prepare for my future learning.”
Nina recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Conservation and Resource Studies. She chose the program as a way to add quantitative prowess to her qualitative skills, particularly when it comes to analyzing environmental policy. Fresh on the job market, Nina thinks her newfound computer program and data analysis skills will give her a leg up as she enters the workforce.
“The academic highlight for me for me has been in learning how to use the programming language, R. Learning how to utilize it to analyze data has been such a joy in a way that I didn't expect it to be. It's difficult to learn, but once you're able to master it—and are able to analyze data and be able to predict results and draw graphs—it really changes how you view data and how you can use it to move forward research. I'm able to spend hours on a (data) set and get an immediate answer in a way that you couldn't do before having this program.”
Learn more in Nina's video.
Lana is a recent graduate of New York University Shanghai with a bachelors in Economics. Her research interest and experience is in the intersection of economics, politics, and gender. In search of a fulfilling graduate school program, Lana chose the program to help narrow to her search and to deepen her technical understanding of data. After a year of working, Lana is currently applying to graduate school in the field of public policy.
"I entered the program with so many graduate school ideas. I wanted to learn programming, and to understand my graduate school interests. Week by week, the program shaped my interests and goals. I ended the program with a clear picture of what I want. I want to go to graduate school for a Masters in Public Policy with data analytics.”
Read more in Lana’s blog post.
Sixian is a current undergraduate student at Peking University, studying sociology. Sixian found UChicago Harris School of Public Policy to be a place for diverse people and backgrounds who share the commonality of wanting to increase social good. Sixian’s insight for prospective students is if you are interested in public policy and want to do social good, then this program is for you.
“The classes are worth our efforts, challenging but rewarding. I would definitely recommend this program to whoever wants to experience the UChicago way of being rigorous and fun and learn new things everyday.”
After finishing a degree in psychology, María Camila is completing another bachelors degree in business administration from the Universidad De Los Andes. Her background combines the internal or innate human mind and the external or socialized structures in society,and how these two factors relate in effective policy. María Camila chose UChicago because of the diverse and interdisciplinary approach to education and research necessary for data-based policy.
"I got to know the University of Chicago and get a glimpse of what studying there would be like. I loved getting to know more about the different graduate programs the university offers. In addition, I really enjoyed getting to know different people from all over the world and from different backgrounds including students, teachers, and other members of the UChicago community."