UChicago Harris is intentional in ensuring students in all programs, whether conducted virtually or in-person, have a rich community experience. In this post, we share four essential pillars of the Harris community experience using the example of the Data and Policy Summer Scholar (DPSS) program.

1. Tools to Connect Virtually

The DPSS program provides students with communication platforms to easily connect with faculty, graduate teaching fellows, staff, and peers. For example, students receive a UChicago Zoom account and join a Slack workspace. Through these platforms, they can directly message one another, create chat groups, and schedule study sessions or hang out times.

“I built community through hosting virtual living rooms. I would drop a message in the group chat letting everyone know when the virtual living rooms were happening. We were able to engage in conversations outside of academic work and it was a way we could all learn from each other.”
—Tatiana Amaya, DPSS’20

2. Program-led Activities

Scavenger hunt
DPSS Virtual Scavenger Hunt

In addition to co-curricular events, the DPSS staff hosts a series of social activities to help students connect. Orientation Week includes a series of icebreaker activities for students to get to know each other. Throughout the program, staff hosts spaces for students to come together casually in a virtual living room, or in game nights and other activities, such a scavenger hunt.

“The scavenger hunt community activity was so fun! I didn't expect so much socializing from a remote program, but I've been able to connect with some wonderful and intelligent people.”
—Meg Edwards, DPSS’20

3. Student-led Activities

Students also initiate and coordinate their own activities. Last summer, there were activities around academics and policy topics such as policy debates, TED Talk reviews, and lecture debrief sessions. Students arranged social activities such as trivia nights, book clubs, and happy hours.

“The ‘Midwest-da-best' happy hour was a lot of fun—it was a small group and we were able to cover a lot of topics and get to know each other over drinks."
—Natalie Kessler, DPSS’20
“I was incredibly impressed by the student initiative. They hosted their own policy discussions, started language exchanges, and organized Zoom hangouts. I was glad to see students from around the world build connections.”
Andie Ingram Eccles, Program Manager

4. UChicago’s Global Network

The virtual program allows students from around the world to join the UChicago classroom. The networking starts with small group chats and panel discussions during the program and continues beyond the seven-week program.

“The week after the DPSS program finished, I started an internship at the Ministry of Trade, Economy, and Industry in Japan as a policy intern. What was amazing was that my mentor at the ministry was a Harris alum, Fumiaki Ebihara, MPP’17. It felt really special to immediately connect with someone from Harris and see how much of an impact he was making in the Japanese government. It made me think about how and where I could make my social impact in the future.”
—Miyu Haraguchi, DPSS’20