An undergraduate at the University of Chicago, Porter participated in Harris' Policy Analytics Credential to bolster her familiarity with R programming
Headshot of Alex Porter
Alex Porter

A student at the College of the University of Chicago, Alexandria Porter will be earning her bachelor's in public policy studies and global studies in 2025. However, Porter began accruing an impressive roster of experiences before she even began her degree program.

The summer before she arrived on campus, Porter secured a Research Assistant position with the Economics Department, where she was part of Professor John List’s research team. "I immersed myself in literature reviews and summarizing data, and the experience served as a great introduction to the intersection of numbers and narratives that were my focal point later as an undergrad."

Once her undergraduate work was underway, Porter explored numerous other extracurricular opportunities to bolster and accentuate her academics. "My internship at Chicago Tech Academy provided an interesting educational lens on policy, and an internship with She Should Run, a nonprofit advocating for women in politics, definitely sharpened my focus on the political framework and the power of policy."

Perhaps her most transformative moment, Porter said, was her time as a summer research fellow with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 2023. "I worked closely with the Thurgood Marshall Institute conducting social science research—mostly annotating bibliographies, database research, coding, and literature reviews. That experience exposed me to the combination of the theoretical underpinnings of policy research and the energy of a think tank: I knew then that I wanted to be a changemaker."

However, even with her academic focus and extracurricular experiences, Porter was concerned about her familiarity with the foundational quantitative aspects of public policy. "I had a basic awareness of R software from an introductory course on statistics, but I wanted to get familiar enough with it to be confident using it to solve challenges in the public policy space."

Porter added, "As I progressed through the public policy major in the College, my interest in education policy, economics, and the uses of demographic data grew substantially. Since all of these topics have a wide range of available data, I wanted to be adequately equipped to manipulate data, find critical insights, and create positive change with policy—and the Policy Analytics Credential was the perfect opportunity to stretch my skills."

The Policy Analytics Credential, Porter said, was a revelation. "PAC transformed coding from a daunting task into an intelligible puzzle that I became more confident piecing together. It not only equipped me with tangible skills but gave me the confidence to say 'I can' in the face of new challenges."

Based on her experience, Porter said she'd recommend PAC to anyone seeking to accelerate their coding skills. "PAC not only benefited my academic journey, as R will be useful for my undergraduate coursework and my thesis, but the entire PAC experience will be invaluable for my professional development as I aspire to seek future internships and a career in public policy research and analysis."