On public policy and the MACRM Program at Harris School of Public Policy.
Headshot of Mariella Gonzalez
Mariella Gonzalez


Lima, Peru


BA and MA in economics, Universidad del Pacifico


APOYO Consultoría and Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones

"Harris offered an excellent balance between theory and applied research. It was definitely at the top in terms of offering a quantitative background."

Why public policy?

When I was working as a consultant, I realized that some political decisions are not made with good evidence in a developing country. I really wanted to help my government make sound decisions, so, I decided to work in the public sector at the Ministry of Transportation and Communication. But, in order to implement high-level policy decisions, I felt I still needed to develop more technical skills.

Why did you choose the MACRM Program at Harris?

I was torn between pursuing an MA or a PhD. The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy offered something in-between an MA and a PhD: The Master of Arts in Public Policy with a Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM). This was the best way for me to figure out what I really wanted.

I also felt that Harris offered an excellent balance between theory and applied research. It was definitely at the top in terms of offering a quantitative background. I already have an MA in economics and wanted something very quantitative. There is no other program like the MACRM program. You can have a strong background already and you’ll still learn so much.

You are now in the PhD program. Did you find that the MACRM prepared you well for the PhD?

The MACRM program is great intensive training for anyone interested in pursuing a PhD. The program lasts fifteen months. During the first year, you take the same classes as the PhD students and you work on a research project of interest. After the first year, you present your work in front of your classmates and faculty. It’s an excellent experience for preparing the foundation of your research. That was when I realized I wanted the PhD.

The MACRM program allows its students, after the first year, to apply to the Harris PhD program and move directly into that program, if accepted. It was a pretty seamless transition. The MACRM helps you develop strong skills that translate not only to Harris, but to any PhD program.

What is your dissertation topic? 

My thesis aims to understand the ways anti-corruption efforts in Brazil affect public sector employment.

Was there a particular faculty member at Harris that most supported you?

James Robinson, Luis Martinez, and Oeindrila Dube, all of whom are on my dissertation committee, have been wonderful and guided me through the research process.  I have also worked on a paper and worked as a Teaching and Research Assistant for Luis Martinez, so he has been an especially great mentor.

Tell me about your Research and Teaching Assistant experiences.

I worked as a Research Assistant twice with Luis Martinez on projects exploring how conflict relates to agricultural policy in Colombia, and later examining datasets from WWII. Though the two projects were completely different, both put the theory I was learning into practice. Luis and I met every week for a few months to discuss progress.

I have also been a Teaching Assistant many times across many different classes. I’ve learned so much working with the MPP and MA students, who are also very eager to learn. 

What are some of the highlights of your time at Harris? 

Being able to conduct relevant, interesting research. Learning from classes and professors, but also from my peers. The program is really small, so you get a lot of individualized attention from professors, which can be really hard to get in other programs.

I’ve also made many long-lasting friendships—they came to my wedding. They were also there to support me when my mom passed away and my dad got sick. I couldn’t have made it without their support, as well as the support of my professors and advisors, and my family (especially my husband). I didn’t think I would want to share this, but the PhD is so long that you need to know that the people you work with (peers and professors) will have your back in the hardest times. Harris is a very special place.