Huang aspires to be a data scientist and use the skills she’s built at Harris to make a difference in family and child policy issues.
Headshot of Serena Huang
Serena Huang

Current MPP student and International Policy Action Lab (IPAL) credential alumna Serena Huang is fascinated by child and family policy issues. Originally born in Framingham, Massachusetts, Huang spent most of her childhood in Edison, New Jersey before moving to Beijing, where she has spent the last ten years.

“I think my experience as an international student in China has shaped my policy interests,” Huang said. “I found there was one key difference between my Chinese friends and my American friends: my Chinese friends were all only children. That sparked my curiosity, and that’s when I started to realize the lasting impact of China’s One Child Policy that was first implemented back in 1980.”

Huang completed her bachelor’s in international economics and trade at Peking University in Beijing in 2021. While a student, she completed several internship and research projects relating to child and family policy in Asian countries. “I completed a research project that examined whether the One Child Policy actually led to economic growth, which was the main reason they implemented it in the first place. I found there was no evidence to suggest that the policy led to growth.”

Huang also interned at the Evergrande Research Institute, a Beijing-based think tank, where she researched issues around Japan’s aging population problem. “I was looking to get a better sense of how past policies have contributed to the problem. I personally think these types of issues will be of utmost importance soon.”

In 2020, Huang participated in UChicago’s International Policy Action Lab (IPAL) in partnership with Peking University. As a summer program student, she helped to co-author a paper with Harris researchers on daily COVID-19 cases across the United States from February to August of 2020. “I knew I wanted to do IPAL because it would give me rigorous training in coding and statistical measures,” she said. “They made coding understandable and enjoyable. By the time it came to finalizing the capstone project, I was using R to create data visualizations and everything. The program gave me excellent tools to assess policy.”

When it came time to apply to graduate schools, Huang said her experience in IPAL made Harris an easy top choice. “I knew some of the Harris faculty and staff who made IPAL such a great experience, and the analytical toolkit Harris emphasizes would be invaluable.” Huang said she also appreciated the flexibility the MPP program provides. “Harris offers a variety of elective courses, but I've also been able to take electives at Booth [School of Business] as well.

Huang recently applied her data collection and analysis skills as an intern for GreatSchools, a California-based nonprofit that provides information on the state’s public and private schools.

As for future plans, Huang said she aspires to be a data scientist working on family and child policy issues. “In the long run, I plan on going back to China. I hope to be able to take the data skills I’m learning here and make a difference in policy areas I am passionate about.”