Charles seeks to leverage his MPP and Pearson experience to improve financial and market-regulation policy.
Headshot of Joshua Charles
Joshua Charles

Joshua Charles’s pathway to public policy began during his undergraduate experience at Cornell University. “I became interested in understanding how successful communications could inspire good policy and began exploring international development," he said. "My courses on economics and development opened my eyes to the potential of positively contributing to the resolution of several global crises that have been based on past—and ongoing—conditions that maintain asymmetric levels of economic distribution. I began to think about those conditions as they related to development, which I had never thought about before,” he said.

Inspired by his studies on economic development, Charles went to Zambia in the summer of 2019 where he served with the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development. “My experience in Zambia was a second pivotal point in my career trajectory. I saw and experienced how long-standing international dynamics have encouraged strategic arrangements between nations. No longer did I seek to have an impact solely in America. I wanted my impact to be on a much greater, international scope,” said Charles.

Charles subsequently returned to Africa in 2021, interning in Uganda and Ghana. In Ghana, he interned for an infrastructure development company, Primesec Limited, where he provided executives with recommendations on infrastructure projects. While in Uganda, he interned for the Global Livingston Institute (GLI) and spoke to community members to implement their perspectives on one of GLI’s sustainability plans. Charles said one key outcome from his time with GLI was producing a report that noted the necessity of ongoing randomized control trials to evaluate and monitor the efficacy of a solar panel project in Southern Uganda. “My experiences in Uganda and Ghana provided new facets to my perspective on economic development. I saw that economic development requires an embraced engagement between communal effort and corporate development.”

Charles said these experiences also helped him recognize the role public policy could have in sustainable development. “I realized I didn’t have the skills to change my scope of capabilities from solely qualitative to quantitative work, and I believe research is more applicable when you can synthesize both types of work together.”

The UChicago Harris Master of Public Policy (MPP) program, he said, seemed ideal for gaining those skills. “The MPP program will help foster my ability to create effective public policies and advocate for data-driven interventions. Plus, the opportunity to design solutions to real-world policy problems within and outside of Chicago is extremely appealing.”

Unsurprisingly, Charles’s global experience also drew him towards The Pearson Institute. As a Pearson Fellow, Charles said, he has been able to leverage his experiences in Africa while exploring global conflict issues with other Fellows.

In fall 2021, Charles served as a Research Assistant (RA) for Professor James Robinson, the Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies and Director of The Pearson Institute. “As his RA, I studied the impact of European influence on different social groups—one of my main interests.”

Currently, Charles is a Research Mentee at the Research In Color Foundation. Under the guidance of environmental economist Dr. Sarah Jacobson, he is investigating the political economy of Indonesia on the microeconomic level. “My current work with the Research In Color Foundation was directly inspired by my RA experience with Professor Robinson, and for that I am grateful.”