Sahasrabuddhe says she regularly uses the skills she gained in DPSS in her current master's degree program.
Headshot of Sanika Sahasrabuddhe
Sanika Sahasrabuddhe

Sanika Sahasrabuddhe, DPSS'18, was unfamiliar with policy until her undergraduate design curriculum at Srishti School of Art Design and Technology in India led her to learn more about social innovation and public policy. “That exposure during undergrad led me to combine my experience in service and interaction design with an exploration of public policy.”

Sahasrabuddhe chose the Data and Policy Summer Scholar (DPSS) Program as a way to explore both policy work and a US graduate school experience and said the program exceeded her expectations.

“I'm currently pursuing my master’s degree at the Carnegie Mellon School of Design, and DPSS gave me the foundation for graduate school. The data-analytics-driven approach helped me become more comfortable using quantitative analysis and combining it with my design background in broader applications.

“I've also been able to use my DPSS skills with some city policy partner projects that came about through faculty members at the Heinz College of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon. For example, our team worked with the City of Boston on zoning issues and heat migration strategies for the City of Boston. This Policy Innovation Lab class that I took with Professor Christopher Goranson evolved into a Public Interest Technology Fellowship (as part of the PIT-UN network) that I am currently pursuing with my peers. The fellowship was an opportunity to put my interests to work. We worked on  a green financing platform for the City of San Francisco and are currently working on a data journalism project. The interdisciplinary approach DPSS fostered made me more confident in working on these fellowship projects, and conversing and sharing ideas with academic peers from other fields.

Sahasrabuddhe also cited the value of the DPSS interdisciplinary approach for her long term goal. “I want to become an interaction designer with a focus in policy. I want to create products and services which foster inclusive, intuitive, and engaging experiences. Learning from faculty—and alongside fellow DPSS participants—as we explored all angles o f an issue in search of the best solution will be an approach I see myself maintaining throughout my career.”

Being in Chicago for the DPSS program also was a benefit. “Living on campus gave me access to a variety of social events for DPSS students. I could meet with people who had different interests than myself, which broadened my horizon for interdisciplinary work, and I also made connections with alumni from the Harris School of Public Policy and UChicago faculty.”

Sahasrabuddhe says her master’s thesis revolves around how behavioral economics and design policy intersect, exploring the ways in which Universal Basic Income policy affects that decision-making process.

Her advice for future DPSS students? “Don't be afraid to try things out in programs like DPSS and feel comfortable with switching your academic or professional focus if you find something that you are passionate about.” Sahasrabuddhe believes that diversifying your own skillset is a valuable trait in today’s world: “It enables you to access more knowledge outside of your own designated field. International students especially should explore opportunities to create their own interdisciplinary approach to policy.”