Program Overview

The four-week Data and Policy Summer Scholar Program at the University of Chicago offers top global undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to study at the University of Chicago and gain a foundation in data analytics, policy research and professional development. In addition to the rigorous academic training, students attend discussion panels addressing various policy topics with practitioners and participate in networking and extracurricular activities with alumni and current graduate students at the university. Partial scholarships are provided to top candidates.

Faculty Leads

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Austin Wright is the Faculty Director for the Data and Policy Summer Scholar Program to ensure the holistic curriculum is designed and taught to meet student needs in the UChicago way. As an Assistant Professor at Harris Public Policy, Wright’s research leverages microlevel data to study the political economy of conflict and crime in Afghanistan, Colombia, Indonesia, and Iraq, and is supported by the National Science Foundation, Niehaus Center for Global Governance, The Asia Foundation, and World Bank. He is also a faculty affiliate of The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts, the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project, and non-resident fellow of the Liechtenstein Institute at Princeton University. Wright teaches the Quantitative Analysis for Public Policy for the Data and Policy Summer Scholar Program. 

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Thomas Coleman, PhD'84, is a senior lecturer at Harris Public Policy and manages the Center for Economic Policy. His focus is teaching students about financial markets. Prior to returning to the University of Chicago, as the Executive Director and Senior Advisor at the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, Coleman worked in the finance industry for over twenty years, with considerable experience in trading, risk management, and quantitative modeling. Positions included head of Quantitative Analysis and Risk Control at Moore Capital Management, LLC; a director and founding member of Aequilibrium Investments, Ltd., a London-based hedge fund manager; roles on the sell side in fixed income derivatives research and trading at TMG Financial Products, Lehman Brothers, and S.G. Warburg in London.

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Kara Ross Camarena is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Harris Public Policy and an affiliate of the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts. Her research explores the political economy of migration and examines implications for political violence, international aid, and development. Ross Camarena’s ongoing research includes a study of violence and refugee flight from Burundi and an analysis of the return of displaced Christians in Lebanon. She has worked on and led consulting teams for international, government, and private sector organizations, contributing expertise on migration, development, and program evaluation. Ross Camarena has a PhD from the Department of Government at Harvard University, and her   master of public policy degree and bachelor's degree are from the University of Chicago.


Wai-Sinn Chan oversees the Professional Development series of the Data and Policy Summer Scholar Program. Chan is the Senior Associate Director for Harris Policy Labs. She works with faculty, staff, and prospective client partners to develop the signature experiential learning program at Harris. Chan also coaches student teams in the classroom and designs the professional development component of Policy Labs. Prior to joining the University, she directed the implementation of projects to improve service reliability and customer communications, including Bus Tracker, at the Chicago Transit Authority. She is a Harris Public Policy MPP and Chicago Booth MBA alumna. 


The curriculum of the program is designed to equip students with the ability to understand and address global issues from multiple perspectives and with data-analytical tools. Students deliver research projects through applying the concepts on real issues and learning from the faculty and team members. 

Quantitative Analysis in Public Policy

This course provides an introduction to critical, quantitative thinking. Students will be introduced to the basic toolkit of policy analysis, which includes sampling, hypothesis testing, Bayesian inference, regression, experiments, instrumental variables, differences in differences, and regression discontinuity. More importantly, students will learn the principles of critical thinking essential for careful and credible policy analysis.

Introduction to Programming in R

This is an introductory course in programming and data analysis for students with no prior coding experience. The course has three goals: introducing students to the tools required to write and share code; translating self-contained questions into R programs; and learning how to retrieve, clean, visualize, and analyze data.

Faculty-led Capstone Project

Throughout the program, students work in small groups, led by a faculty member on a capstone project. The capstone project is an excellent opportunity for students to apply the knowledge and skills learned over the program. The project enables students to work through real world problems, collaborate with peers and faculty to design a solution. Students can highlight the project on their resume.

Featured Capstone Project Example with Kara Ross Camarena

In the developing world, refugees are often sequestered to camps, prohibited from working, and dependent on aid.  As such, they are often perceived as an economic burden.  Nevertheless refugee camps can become vibrant centers of economic activity.  We will study how refugees harness their resources to engage in economic activity, as consumers, workers, business owners and service providers.  Using a series of surveys from the Rohingya refugees camps in Cox Bazar, Bangladesh, we will explore how refugees engage in the local economy inside and outside of refugee camps and the extent to which the camp economy interacts with the host local economy beyond the camp boundaries.

Public Policy Series

The series of public policy lectures and talks will expose students to a wide range of critical policy topics such as education, energy, healthcare, finance, and economic development. Students will analyze policies and their impacts, review relevant research on each topic, and examine implications of the findings to policy and practice. Students will also hear from leading practitioners within each field about their own experience and development paths.

Academic and Professional Writing and Communication

This course focuses on building skills to communicate and write clear, effective academic or professional prose. Students will learn North American writing conventions and strategies as well as tactics to convey clear messages to an audience in an impactful way. These skills enable students to write a great research proposal or personal statement. 

Program Schedule