Xu aims to use the quantitative skills he gains in the MPP program to explore the connection between health and nutrition.
Headshot of Jeremy Xu
Jeremy Xu

In high school, Jeremy Xu, MPP Class of 2023, wanted to open his own healthy, plant-based restaurant. He grew up in Shanghai, and he saw the fast-paced lifestyle of the city led to many people eating unhealthy foods—leading to unhealthy lives. “I thought that if I could create a restaurant that promoted healthy eating, I could begin to get people to realize how the food we eat impacts our bodies.”

Seeking to understand the connection between our bodies and nutrition, Xu went to Shanghai Jiao Tong University to research nutrition on the molecular level. In the summer of 2018, he went to McMaster University to study health care management and the challenges of digital health care. “My time at McMaster was important, because it was my first exposure to health care and how to use the practice to make social change.” In 2019, Xu was selected for a joint degree program with Cornell University, where he is currently a senior studying nutritional science, business, and communication. 

“When the COVID-19 pandemic started, it created a lot of public health concerns around food insecurity,” Xu said. During summer 2020, he interned with the Age-Friendly Initiative, an internship, he said, which subsequently shaped his interest to pursue public policy. “We investigated how nonprofits in Tompkins County, New York created emergency food networks to address food insecurity in the county. I interviewed the organizations and learned how they set up food distribution to ensure food reached vulnerable families. I also wrote a best practices report that was sent to numerous New York state agencies.

“Undertaking that report made me realize that food insecurity is going to be a public concern. COVID-19 magnified the issue, but it is a long-term issue. And this made me want to go into public policy,” Xu said. “I see this as an extension of my interest in nutrition. I want to apply my nutrition knowledge to a broader area.”

Xu also had seen that there were gaps between creating policy and  implementing it. “I wanted to figure out how to close those gaps by engaging the public during the policy formation and ensure policy is created holistically.”

Xu began looking at public policy programs and was immediately drawn to the Master of Public Policy program at Harris. “I wanted a program that would give me quantitative skills, because all my previous research was qualitative. I was confident Harris would deliver a strong quantitative foundation I could use in the future to address social problems.”

Xu said he is looking forward to taking interdisciplinary courses to broaden his perspective into other fields to see what might be useful to the field of nutrition. He is also looking forward to the Policy Labs and getting to know graduate students from throughout the university.

“This is a really important step to turn my passion into reality,” Xu said. “Harris is an important platform to transform my theory and previous knowledge into practice.”

Xu said he is still deciding what exactly he wants to do after Harris, but right now he wants to stay in the United States to continue getting insight into another culture and gain exposure to different perspectives. "I think I’d like to be a social practitioner, work at a nonprofit, or become a consultant. But I definitely plan to take the next two years to figure out which industry best connects my interests.”