Assistant Professor Austin Wright

As a part of Harris Public Policy's celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we sat down with Assistant Professor Austin L. Wright to discuss his Mexican-American community roots.


1. What attracted you to Harris, and are there any other connection to UChicago?

Harris is committed to rigorous policy evaluation. We are training students to lead the data-driven revolution in the social sciences and public policy. The passion that my colleagues bring to this mission and our enduring commitment to a rigorous, data-driven approach is what makes me excited to be a faculty member.

2. What is your policy niche, and was it informed by any experiences growing up?

Most of my research is about the political economy of conflict and crime. I grew up poor and know the struggles that come with economic challenges. I have seen my friends and their families (along with my own) grapple with these hardships. Better understanding how local economic inequities impact violence and crime is at once an academic passion and deeply personal.

3. Have you participated with any Affinity or Resource Groups to build community? If so, what were some of the rewards of that affiliation?

Photo provided by Austin Wright.

As a student, I was involved in a number of groups on campus. These groups help ground you in the community you know (or may want to know more about). It is important to have those connections so that you can exchange stories of common struggle and shared aspirations. 

4. What are some of the traditions that you continue from home (religious, music, art, food, etc.)?

My kids love to help around the kitchen, and this was a big part of my childhood. I still remember the times I made tortillas from scratch with my abuela. I am continuing that tradition with my kids.  

5. Whenever people visit San Antonio, what are some of the must-see landmarks?

Photo provided by Austin Wright.

My mother was born in south Texas. We are part of that unique Mexican-American community, and I grew up spending time getting actively involved in my neighborhood on the West side of San Antonio. The history of San Antonio, as a historical mission site, is vast. There is so much to learn about the history of the Southwest in the grounds of these missions, as well as the Alamo.

Special thanks to Debra Gay and Tanya Hines for their work on this Q&A.