Originally from China, Shang explores how economics and environmental issues intersect through interactive learning at Harris.
Haocheng Shang
Haocheng Shang

During his undergraduate studies, Haocheng Shang had goals to become a great scientist who could make an impact on the world – someone like Scottish geologist and thinker Charles Lyell, whom Shang quotes at will.

“[Lyell] had a genius saying, ‘the present is the key to the past,’ which is a theoretical foundation of earth science. I think this idea is also valuable in social sciences, like economics,” explained Shang, adding that today’s dilemmas could be an accumulation of past problems.

With Lyell’s theory in mind and a strong geochemistry background from Peking University, Shang held many internships and research assistant positions at the Guanghua School of Management, Founder Securities Head Office, and Mercer Consulting in Beijing. An internship at the World Resource Institute allowed him to help a group of researchers gather and analyze data regarding water pollution and economic development in Daqing, China. It was there Shang realized how intertwined economic issues were with environmental issues he had been focused on.

“I used to think that environment problems should be tackled only in the environment area. But I realized that all things have some kind of link,” Shang says. “Water pollution is an environmental issue but it has a very strong and deep economic background. The problems we are facing right now are not so isolated.”

After realizing how connected science issues were with economic policies, Shang added an economics major to his undergraduate degree and wondered about the impact he could have by continuing his education in a policy school. After completing his undergraduate studies at Peking University, he considered many graduate programs but felt that the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy was the right choice because of the School’s mission to educate students beyond basic skills.

“At Harris, there seemed to be a great balance between academics and research and career goals,” says Shang. “Harris helps provide job opportunities but also encourages students to interact with ideas about how the world works.”

As a first year Master of Public Policy student, Shang has started his Harris core classes in statistics and analytical politics, and a PhD-level microeconomics class. Taking challenging courses and forming small study groups with other determined students makes him feel proud to be part of a school that encourages interactive learning and the exchange of ideas.

“Students of different cultures and backgrounds can gather in this school not only because we have the same courses and curriculum,” says Shang, “but because we all somehow identify with the Harris ideas. We all believe that policy is not about feeling good, it’s about doing good. The ideas that Harris holds are very solid, inclusive, and comprehensive.”

Shang contributes the sense of community at Harris not only to students.

“The faculty and staff at Harris are friendly. They help with basic concerns, like career development, but also with more complex questions,” says Shang. “They really listen and talk to students because they believe today’s students are the future leaders and thinkers.”

Shang spends much of his free time exploring Chicago to experience the city and taking part in University events. Besides being involved in an alumni association for Peking University, he continues to explore the intersection between environmental and economic issues. In the beginning of the 2018 school year, he participated in the Becker Friedman Institute’s US-China Economic Forum, which he registered for a month in advance. Shang says taking part in these events energizes him.

“Only Harris has the privilege and resources to hold events and speeches like that. I feel proud to be a Harris student because I think Harris is the best platform for opportunities,” says Shang. “I can feel myself growing.”