Alumnus Xiaolong Wu offers this advice to Harris students: Be yourself, and tell your own stories.
Xiaolong Wu, MPP’13
Xiaolong Wu, MPP’13


Jinan, Shandong, China


PhD Candidate (expected 2020), Political Economics, Stanford University


BA, English and International Studies with Highest Honors, Beijing Foreign Studies University

Xiaolong Wu is a curious person with a strong analytical mind. Exploring social phenomena, thinking about the stories behind the problems, and arguing for interesting topics is a great joy for him. He focuses on development issues and policy implication in the real world—and he credits his analytical skills and global perspective to his experience studying at Harris.

Why Public Policy?

When I was a child, I loved debating. Explaining social phenomena, thinking about the stories behind the problems, and arguing about interesting topics is a great joy for me. In college, I was a member of the policy debate team, where we had policy-related debates in British Parliamentary style for two years. The topics included political science, sociology, and principles of economics. One interesting fact is that many members from the debate team are pursuing PhD degrees in economics or JD degrees now.

There is no doubt that debating prepared my mind for future in-depth analytical thinking, which I developed later at Harris. One example is a course in terrorism with Professor Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, where he analyzes the topic from every perspective at different levels in a particularly thorough way, from types of people who might participate in activities to potential consequences, then to the optimum strategy to prevent terrorism. 

At Harris, I was able to add quantitative skills to my argumentation skills, which I believe will combine to create a powerful ability to work in a variety of fields—especially policymaking. It is not rare to see assumptions in the domestic policymaking process in China, but many of them are unverified and need further evaluation of consequences and mechanism. Evidence-based analysis, such as program evaluation, is very practical and useful for specific policymaking.  

Why Harris?

I basically had no quantitative background before Harris, so I hoped to have some systematic learning in analytical skills. I remember I also applied to the Kennedy School, Cornell, Georgetown, and Carnegie Mellon. The main determinant for me was the well-designed curriculum here. Harris is a big professional school with strong faculty resources.

I feel extremely lucky that I chose Harris. Harris offers a very good balance between academic rigor and practical applications. Harris has courses tailored to policy students, and you still have options to choose courses in other departments. For example, if I want to study macroeconomics, Harris will provide me with many options, including courses taught by Harris faculty, courses provided by the Booth School of Business, and related lectures from the Economics or Social Science departments. It is flexible and rigorous at the same time; tuned to your abilities, background and personal career aspirations.

In your current role, how has Harris’ curriculum and/or your Harris experience been most beneficial?

My first lecture was Statistics with Professor Robert LaLonde, whose paper from 1986 is cited in almost every stats textbook. Although I did not fully understand all the concepts, it inspired me a lot. Microeconomics with Professor Kerwin Charles and Analytical Politics with Professor Ethan Bueno de Mesquita are also very helpful in my daily work.

Harris’ diverse student body also offers multiple paths of learning. During my time at Harris, I learned Stata skills from a Colombian classmate who worked at the World Bank for several years; had wonderful discussions with a former employee from the Bank of Japan; talked about papers with a second-year PhD student from Chile; and gained a deep understanding about Asia from a US classmate who was an English teacher in Korea. Thanks to this Harris experience, now in my work I think more from a policy point of view. I will not write something that only academics can understand; I make my writing have policy implications in the real world. I am able to explain questions I am studying in a clear way to my parents, and to discuss with professionals in the field as well.

Is there any advice you would give to a prospective student who is just starting the application process?

Think of your own personal interests first, especially whether public policy is a good fit for you. Spend more time on what kind of person you want to be, which industry you are interested in, or what skill sets you need to have. If your dream career is at the International Development Bank or a start-up, probably business school will fit better. For those who want to go to fields of business or law, MPP joint degree training is a good supplement to enrich your background and enlarge the scope of your education.

All the impressions that Harris brings are positive. I am honored to have this educational experience. I love my classmates and Harris. I even persuaded a couple of talented prospective students to apply and join Harris.

Be yourself; tell your own stories.