Hello! I am Xiaofan Liu, a second-year MPP student and member of Team Harris. I would love to share a little about my experience in one fantastic Core Course: Decisions and Organizations with Professor Wioletta Dziuda. It is offered every spring. MPP students usually take it during their 3rd quarter, after Analytical Politics I & II.

Prof. Wioletta Dziuda is an assistant professor at Harris. Her main interests lie in applied game theory, political economy, and the economics of information. She has a very unique teaching style: clear, interesting, and motivating at the same time. I am sure that many students were as astonished by her first lecture as I was. Stopping by her office hours, we could always get valuable suggestions not only on the course, but also on other game theory applications that interested us. There is also a group of excellent TAs to help us solve problems about models.

Whether running an NGO, being a consultant, policy analyst or a policy maker, you are part of an organization –  contributing to its success or failure, and affecting its operations. Understanding the basic challenges that organizations face and learning how to avoid mistakes that can lead to organizational failure is a necessary skill for people who are passionate about making social impacts. The course consists of three parts: providing incentives within organizations to achieve the goals, how insufficient or dispersed information may lead to suboptimal decisions and how to alleviate the problem, and how organizations should respond to behavioral biases.

By exploring incentives behind people’s actions, I could understand the world better and communicate with people of different experiences. I remember one team assignment where we had the same data, but each interpreted the information differently due to our diverse backgrounds and mindsets.

I hope this gives you a sense of what Core Courses are like at Harris, and a little bit more motivation to dig deeper when you are having Decisions and Organizations.