IPAL gave Wu the opportunity to explore the ways in which public policy applies economic principles to real-world situations.
Headshot of Xintong Wu
Xintong Wu

A student at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, Xintong Wu wanted to explore subjects beyond her bachelor of economics. “I was doing econometrics and complex mathematics, but I became interested in the ways that public policy puts economic concepts into action,” said Wu. “I’m concerned about the ways in which social problems impact people’s wellbeing—especially education and opportunity access for women and those who live in rural places.”

While searching for a summer program where she could explore social issues, Wu found the Peking University-University of Chicago International Policy Action Lab (IPAL). “I heard about IPAL from my school’s WeChat group and was enticed by the idea of being a part of a program run by both Peking University and the University of Chicago,” she said.

Wu said she hoped IPAL would be an opportunity to communicate with fellow students interested in public policy, learn their perspectives on social issues, and glean more information on working in policy—and IPAL delivered.

“IPAL successfully provided me with the perspective of public policy,” she said. “Some homework required lots of writing and thinking through the data. I learned a lot about Excel and R—cleaning, searching, and conducting statistical analysis on data. But perhaps even more valuable to me was learning the process of writing an academic essay,” said Wu.

Wu completed two essays over the course of the program. The first was an econometrics essay in which she searched multiple databases in China to find major economic indicators about Guangdong Province. “I created Excel sheets from the data, imported that into STATA, and then used the coding I learned in IPAL to create an analysis.”

The second essay, our capstone project, examined Covid-19 masking policy in the United States. “My capstone explored how mask policy could impact people’s decisions to go into stores that require masks. My classmates and I created graphs from a specific set of data and then used that data for linear regression analysis. The capstone project was extremely valuable, because it motivated me to try to explain the data behind an economic phenomenon,” said Wu.

As for socializing with other IPAL participants, Wu was very engaged. “Due to the pandemic, many IPAL participants couldn’t participate in in-person events. A few fellow participants and I set up activities and games like bingo that created casual opportunities to get to know one another.”

IPAL, Wu says, taught her more about how public policy can be a meaningful path for her. “Earning a graduate degree and working in public policy would be rewarding,” she said. “Combining fields such as behavioral economics with psychology and public policy would provide a valuable opportunity to make a positive contribution,” she said.