Zhang plans to leverage his background in applied mathematics at Harris to create evidence-based policies that will impact Asian development.
Headshot of Jiuzhi (Simon) Zhang
Jiuzhi (Simon) Zhang

Jiuzhi (Simon) Zhang’s interest in international development developed at a young age. Originally from Beijing, Zhang moved to the Philippines during high school, where his father worked as a diplomat with the Asian Development Bank. “Seeing the impact my dad made on the international stage was inspiring to me, and I realized that I wanted to follow that same path, working for development on an international scale.”

Zhang nurtured his appreciation for international affairs in high school when he joined Model United Nations (UN), which he continued as he pursued his bachelor’s in applied mathematics with a minor in philosophy at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “While I had always been good at math, and I knew it would be useful in most fields, being in Model UN and talking with students from political science backgrounds kept my passion for international affairs alive.”

Zhang had another opportunity to cultivate his interest in international development at Harris last year, when he joined the Data and Policy Summer Scholar program (DPSS). “DPSS really enhanced my passion for public policy. I met some amazing faculty like Austin Wright, and worked with an incredible group of people in my cohort —I am still in contact with some of them to this day. And being able to tie in my mathematical background to policies I care about was a dream come true. It definitely solidified my decision to pursue my Master of Public Policy (MPP).”

What Zhang learned about policy at DPSS tied directly into his 2019 summer internship with the Development Research Center for the State Council in Beijing, where he researched pension and social insurance programs, which is an area of increasing concern for the rapidly aging populace in China.

In 2014, Zhang interned with the Asian Development Bank, where his team won a competition to design a business model for a local village whose primary industry was crafting handbags from waterlilies from a nearby river.

“That was a very rewarding experience. When I graduate, I’d like to return to Asia to work in development and continue making a difference in the places I grew up. I would be very interested in working more with the Asian Development Bank, where my father worked. I’m especially interested in studying urban policy at Harris because of the rapid urbanization in China and the Philippines.”

Zhang just graduated from UCLA and is looking forward to meeting his classmates this fall.  He hopes the grit and determination that got him through his studies at UCLA pay off at Harris.

When he is not studying, Zhang enjoys going to the gym, running, practicing acoustic guitar, and binge-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender.

And while he enjoyed Model UN, Zhang is eager to see how this training plays out in real life. “I’m looking forward to applying what I learn about public policy to real-world scenarios to help people and communities attain their full potential.”