“There are many bureaucratic and systemic barriers that folks face to access digital services. I want to use my quantitative and technical skills to close that digital divide.”
Headshot of Angela The
Angela The

Originally from San Jose, California, Angela The attended Vanderbilt University where she graduated in 2019 with a double major in violin musical arts and public policy studies. “I love chamber music and playing the violin, but taking a sociology class called Prison Life sparked my interest in criminal justice. I got involved in direct service work through Project Return with Nashville’s formerly incarcerated population, where I learned about the hurdles and barriers people had to overcome—even with caseworker assistance—to access resources and services.”

After graduation, The worked as a technical research assistant at MDRC, a nonprofit education and social policy research organization, where she gained exposure to research projects in the federal government. “I worked on the recruitment and impact evaluation  of projects, and I found that I enjoyed that work. It combined my interest in working in a technical role with my desire to help others gain easier access to resources. However, the projects moved slowly, and I knew I wanted to make a more immediate impact.”

The's work with Project Return and at MDRC broadened her interests to cover general social services and the ability to access them. Upon discovering Harris and the Master of Science in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) program, The knew she had found the right fit. “There is no other program like MSCAPP,” she said. “You can delve into building technical skills and still maintain such a strong emphasis on public policy and community involvement.”

During the beginning of the pandemic, The began to focus even more heavily on the digital divide and people’s access to government resources. “The pandemic further revealed those who do not have equitable and affordable access to the internet and services. Watching my mom attempt to access resources as a small business owner and my grandmother seeking medical services showed me firsthand the bureaucracy and complications behind government technology. So, I came to Harris to gain skills to hopefully improve people’s experiences with local government and technology.”

Following her first year at Harris, The had the opportunity to work in the San Jose Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation through the Coding It Forward fellowship. She worked on a digital inclusion project which aimed to help underserved communities gain resources and better connection to the internet by funding local organizations to provide devices and improve digital literacy. “I wanted to be more in touch with communities on the city level. I was looking for ways to get involved with digital services in local government.

“The MSCAPP program prepared me for this fellowship, which is one of the only graduate-level programs that serves as a pathway into civic technology work. I was working in a full-stack engineering role and didn’t have a lot of experience with that. On top of the technical skills I developed, CAPP also helped me learn to adapt, pick up skills quickly, and ask the right questions to be successful.”

The hopes to continue to work in civic technology after completing the MSCAPP program. “I want to be part of creating human-centered, thoughtful solutions that directly benefit those who need it. Many big firms just create band-aid solutions that necessitate governments to be dependent, but I want to work directly for the community to create lasting solutions.”