Zárate, Class of 2020, is pursuing an MS-CAPP degree at Harris Public Policy that combines two disciplines –computer science and public policy.


Andrés Nigenda Zárate, Class of 2020, chose Harris because he felt it offered him the best preparation possible to achieve his goal: to help policy makers use data to create better education, healthcare, and economic programs for his country.

His commitment to this cause began when he was a boy in Mexico City. His father’s family, originally from a rural area in Oaxaca, moved to Mexico City because it offered better educational and economic opportunities. But they visited their relatives in Oaxaca regularly, taking young Andrés, with them. During these visits Andrés became aware that there were significant differences between the life he led in the city with his parents and those led by his relatives and their neighbors in Oaxaca.

As Andrés puts it, “It seemed to me then that there were two different versions of Mexico, and the inequality between them was too great to be ignored. I realized that people in the country had far fewer resources when it came to schooling, healthcare, and a chance to support their families. I wanted to use what I was learning in college to solve this situation.”

While earning his bachelor of arts degree in economics at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), Andrés wrote a thesis reflecting his concerns, entitled Changes in Wage Inequality in Mexico: A Task Content Approach. His thesis won second place in the 2016 annual competition for the Citi-Banamex Economics Prize. He also served as editor of ITAM’s Economics Gazette.

“It was during an internship as an analyst with México ¿cómo vamos?, a think tank striving to reduce inequality and boost economic growth, that I started to understand how the unequal allocation of resources and technology was a major determinant of underdevelopment and inequality in Mexico. I also recognized that if I wanted to be involved in the public policy of my country, I needed to follow a career as a public servant.”

After working in various positions with the Mexican Social Security Institute, Mexican Petroleums, and the World Bank, Andrés joined the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy as Deputy Director of Data Analysis.

“I decided I wanted to pursue a graduate degree back in 2014, while I was still in college. But first I needed to gain some work experience so I could decide just what I wanted to learn from my graduate studies. I first heard about Harris from some of my college professors who had gone there themselves. Later, researching the kind of degree I wanted to earn, I learned even more.”

The degree that Andrés eventually decided to pursue, master of science in computational analysis and public policy (MSCAPP), was the first of its kind when it launched at Harris in 2014. It’s a two-year program developed and offered jointly by Harris and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Chicago.  

“I chose the MSCAPP degree because I want to be able to make the language of technology more understandable to policy makers. That’s why the focus of the MSCAPP program on computer science, statistics, and policy analysis appealed to me right from the start.”

“My plan is to become a designer of public policy applications oriented toward tackling inequality through the use of technology. After I get my degree, I want to apply my newly refined skills working for the Mexican government or a non-governmental organization to contribute to more effective social and development policy. In the longer term, I’d like to spearhead the creation of a much-needed organization to track and orient the government’s policy on technology.”