Xiaoyun Tang pursued DPSS as a way to explore her budding interest in public policy and has now been admitted to the Master of Public Policy class of 2023.
Headshot of Xiaoyun Tang
Xiaoyun Tang

Originally from Shanghai, China, Xiaoyun Tang is driven by her passion to create positive change in society.

Tang traces this motivation back to a news story she read in high school. In 2011, two-year-old Wang Yue was run over by two vehicles on a narrow road in Foshan, Guandong. As she lay bleeding, at least 18 passers-by walked around her for seven minutes. Yue may have survived if bystanders had stepped in sooner. “I began researching this incident and why people are hesitant to help strangers in moments of crisis,” Tang said.

Tang’s research led her to propose ways to encourage people to break out of the “bystander” mindset. “My classmates and I started an awareness-raising campaign to ask people if they knew of the accident, what they would do if they were there, and asked them to sign an informal statement saying that they would offer a helping hand in similar situations.”

This high-school campaign sparked her interest in other societal issues, and Tang began exploring career paths to help solve them. “When I started college, I saw Financial Management as a way to make a strong impact, as it would enable me to affect how resources are distributed.”

After graduating with her BA in Business Administration from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Tang worked for A Better Community, a Chinese non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides pro-bono consulting services. “By working closely with a variety of NGOs, and seeing through the lens of each organization, I was able to better interpret holistically how society functions. This experience also got me interested in the role public policy plays to support citizens.”

For Tang, the Data and Policy Summer Scholar (DPSS) program was an ideal progression. "While exploring summer opportunities, the diversity of the DPSS program alumni stood out. For example, DPSS program alumna Yangzhou Ou’s journey—combining her journalist background with data analysis—intrigued me. I connected with several DPSS alumni on LinkedIn to ask about their experience with the program, and their response confirmed I could gain a lot from it.”

In DPSS, Tang learned more about how data was collected and used to inform policy decisions. "I was able to apply the statistical and programming skills I learned to my Capstone project on territorial control in Afghanistan. It was very exciting for us to solve real world problems. And now, I feel more comfortable with the quantitative side of public policy.”

Beyond the academic benefits of the program, Tang also connected with her fellow students, guest speakers, and staff. "I connected with the DPSS Program Assistant Catherine Witt, MPP Class of 2022, about her career path. Since I am pursuing UNICEF positions because of my interests in education and child development, Catherine’s UN work experience provided invaluable insight regarding working for NGOs. And after speaking with Ellen Cohen, Executive Director for the Center for Health and the Social Sciences at UChicago, who led the resume workshop, I felt much more confident about my options for graduate school and professional careers.”

With the skills learned during DPSS, Tang secured research assistantships that required R programming skills and research experience.

She also decided to apply for her Master of Public Policy (MPP) at Harris School of Public Policy. “I knew that Harris could give me the challenging courses, rigorous academic training, and research opportunities I want. With these things in mind, I applied Early Action and was recently admitted.”

Tang looks forward to joining a diverse cohort who—like her—are passionate about helping others.