We sat down with Senior Associate Dean Ranjan Daniels about the uniqueness of the Data and Policy Summer Scholar (DPSS) Program and how it prepares future graduate students and emerging professionals for the field of data analytics and public policy.

What is the role of data analytics in public policy?

When I talk to government and industry leaders, they are looking for people who not only understand the social sciences and can tell a story but also can take complex information and data and come up with solutions and ideas. At the University of Chicago, we want to think through—and sometimes reimagine—the best way to do things, and we need students to take social science and blend that with economics and data analytics.

How is the program designed?

DPSS was designed to enable students to get the UChicago approach to social impact policy, innovation, and data analytics so that they can take what they learn on a Monday and apply it on a Wednesday in their job—or be able to hit the ground running in a graduate program.

We also considered what would be the most helpful to know before students joined a graduate program like Harris. Some of our students have had exposure to coding and research methods and want to take it to another level. We also have students that are just getting introduced. We believe very strongly in teams at UChicago and in working together collaboratively to learn from each other.

What is the value of DPSS in academia?

Understanding data is now essential, yet I'm struck by how many students I talk to from around the world that have never seen it in their undergraduate program. We created DPSS to help level the playing field and make sure that students can get the most out of their experience when they attend graduate school or to help them better navigate their undergrad.

What makes the DPSS experience unique?

I think there are three key differentiators. First and foremost, students have a full-time teaching and support team who are there to give them a great experience. Students have interactive sessions with the Harris team to ensure their mastery of the program curriculum. Second, we host twice weekly speaker and networking sessions. From talks with policy practitioners and small groups with UChicago alumni, to dynamic workshops on policy writing and career readiness, these sessions—hearing from people who are working on policy around the world—open up a lot of opportunities for DPSS students. We want students to take that network and use their DPSS toolkit to build a better path for themselves. And third—the Capstone Project—gives students an opportunity to demonstrate the skills they have gained over the program. The Capstone Project presentations have always been mind-blowing—it is impressive to see where students start and the skills they have gained by the end of the program. It is a great product DPSS alums have presented on their job and graduate school applications.

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