Lindsay Hiser
Lindsay Hiser, MPP Class of 2023

The Harris Core Curriculum (“the Core”)  is a two-quarter sequence of six foundational courses in microeconomics, statistics for data analysis, and analytical politics. The Core is a distinguishing aspect of the Harris academic experience and sets Harris apart from other policy graduate programs. Lindsay Hiser, MPP Class of 2023, shares her experience taking courses in the Core Curriculum and her reflections on its impact. 

Spring quarter is underway at Harris. For Harris students—specifically first-year MPP students—the beginning of spring quarter means the triumphant end to the Core.

Having come to Harris with a definitively non-quantitative background, I was nervous about the Core sequence. While those nerves were not misplaced, I’ve been reflecting lately on the ways that the Core prepared me for what’s ahead.

As the next cohort of admitted students prepares to transition to Harris, I thought it would be helpful to share my own reflections about the Core. These observations are a product of my own experience, notably in how it has been shaped by my background and aspirations. I hope it proves insightful—and maybe demystifying—for those who will be coming to campus this fall.

Group Work

The Core deepened my understanding of the value of group work in the classroom. The more classes I attended, the more I found it essential to embrace group work. Many courses in the Core encourage or even require group work on problem sets. The groups I formed in each class eventually became my academic support system for the remainder of the quarter.

Since the Core, I gained a new perspective on the value of group work. Listening to others express and question their understanding of course concepts played a crucial role in helping me recall material, especially during exams. Most importantly, I now understand how participation in group work can coexist with, and even complement, my own learning style.

Data Skills

The Core met my expectations in preparing me to excel in quantitative tasks. The biggest impact was in the development of my coding skills. My first introduction to coding was during Orientation, which laid the foundation for future work in the Core. With each new coding assignment, what once was a completely foreign language became more familiar and intelligible. It was also a mixed bag of emotions: exciting, in that I was actively learning a new skill, but also incredibly frustrating, given the challenges of learning any new language.

I am now using the foundational skills I learned in the Core to pursue the Data Analytics Certificate at Harris. This quarter, I am enrolled in two Harris classes and one non-Harris class, all of which employ the R programming language for different purposes. The ability to engage with R through different disciplinary perspectives simultaneously has been very rewarding.

Confidence in Pursuing My Goals

Perhaps more important than the skills I’ve developed in the Core is the confidence I have built to apply these skills toward my own goals. Before starting classes at Harris, I frequently talked about the research experience and data analysis tasks I hoped to gain for my own professional development. At that point, however, those ambitions were all somewhat abstract. With the Core behind me, I feel confident in seeking out the courses and opportunities that allow me to bridge my new analytical skills with my unique strengths and interests.

Lindsay will be applying the skills she gained in the Core during her research fellowship with the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) this summer.