Charles Huang, DPSS’22 and MPP Class of 2025, brings a rich background in volunteerism and local and federal government to Harris.
Headshot of Charles Huang
Charles Huang

“After earning my BA in economics from the University of Chicago in 2014, I returned home to New Jersey and followed the crowd and applied to jobs in finance and consulting,” said Charles Huang, DPSS’22 and MPP Class of 2025. However, he also started volunteering. “I'd read that volunteering not only adds skills to your resume, but it helps keep up your mental health during the job search process,” he said. 

He first volunteered with the Institute for Immigrant Concerns in New York. “I originally joined to help with social media, but I also organized files, drafted grant proposals, and managed spreadsheets. I appreciated that it wasn’t super glamorous—it gave me a sense of what it means to be a volunteer.”

Over the next three years, Huang volunteered for the NYC Civic Corps at the New York City Department for the Aging, applied and served an AmeriCorps Civic Corps term with the Korean American Family Service Center in Queens, and then served a second AmeriCorps term as a NYC VISTA with the NYC Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services.

In 2018, Huang secured a job as a VMSU Specialist with Corporation for the Community and National Service—the federal agency in Washington, DC that manages the AmeriCorps program. In his role, he oversaw all member actions for all VISTA members in the Northeast Region.

Huang held that position until 2022 when he shifted his focus to graduate school. “While all the organizations I volunteered with do a lot of good for their communities, I kept wondering about the long term: are these communities improving over 25, 50 years? And I felt that public policy with its focus on data analytics, macro- and micro-economics, and sociology would be a perfect toolkit for me to understand how to do that work better.”

Huang said Harris immediately stood out—but not only because he had gone to UChicago as an undergrad. “Harris’s emphasis on quantitative data analysis was key. Where a lot of other schools say they give you ‘rigorous data studies’ they don't go much further than buzzwords. But at Harris, it's central. The Core curriculum has a lot of quantitative and dating coding work—but it's not to make things difficult. The Harris mindset is that these subjects are not optional if you aspire to be an effective policy maker, and I definitely appreciated that perspective, context, and honesty.”

However, Huang said he wasn’t quite ready to jump headfirst into the Master of Public Policy (MPP) program. “The Data Policy and Summer Scholars [DPSS] program was a critical first step. Being out of an academic environment for almost a decade, I wanted to prepare for this rigorous curriculum. While DPSS was challenging, I had an extremely supportive community of classmates, TAs, and professors. DPSS was the tipping point that made Harris my number one choice.”

Now, Huang not only looks forward to engaging with Harris academics but also extracurricular opportunities. The Harris Student Organization (HSO), South Side Civic, he said, spoke to his volunteering experience, and unum, an HSO that emphasizes and promotes respectful political discourse, speaks to Huang’s career goals. “I’d like to develop and practice a volunteer-centric public policy to address political polarization. I’m also interested in how community volunteerism rates affect other measures of conflict such as crime, violence, and polarization. With luck, I hope to demystify how volunteerism can impact these issues and develop a wider strategy for change.”