This summer I participated in the Wharton Industry Exploration (WIE) course held in Washington, D.C. The program exposes students to leading firms and organizations in an industry of interest. They are a great chance to meet leaders in various fields in a low-pressure environment and connect with other interested peers.
I participated in the DC Policy Sector course which took us through the D.C. policy research sector specifically. I’m interested in going into public policy research and have been doing research in public economics over the past year with a professor here at Penn. I thought this course might be a natural way to get familiar with my options in D.C.
The course certainly opened my eyes to all the available options in D.C.! We went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). At each, we met with researchers who presented their work, fielded questions and engaged with us on how to get involved in policy while in school.
We also went to an alumni mixer and spoke to Penn alumni who are doing impressive things in policy, ranging from White House advisers to high-ranking National Security policymakers. Plus, there was also an impressive array of food and we had a lot of fun sampling the DC culinary scene.
One of my favorite moments was seeing Dr. Peter Fader’s mixture models being used by a Penn grad to solve a high-octane fraud case at the FTC. That was cathartic; seeing how people from Penn shape the field where you want to go – it’s a nice feeling for sure!
Through this experience, I got to see the capital from the inside. I learned how much research is conducted daily at federal agencies. I was surprised and pleased to find it’s fairly easy to conduct research in government. There’s ample room to explore a policy area of interest. People in their respective organizations were passionate about their own work and how it contributed to their organization’s overall mission. From the BLS researching how people’s daily priorities contribute to childhood health to IMF associates discussing trade balances, everyone had a great narrative and rigorous research.
The course itself gave me a chance to orient myself. In M&T, we take a lot of courses down both sides of the aisle (the old “foot in two boats” metaphor coming to mind here). My WIE experience gave me a chance to look and see where I was going. Now, in my current internship, I can communicate my goals clearly to my supervisors so they know how to orient my work.
All in all, I highly recommend the WIE experience. Those who are interested in research, who want to get involved in government, or who have skills in quantitative analysis and want to make a difference should definitely sign up. Policy offers a chance to make a massive difference, using rigorous research techniques to understand where the current system goes wrong. It’s a highly translatable skill as well so, if you’re into problem-solving, consider policy.
Policy doesn’t have to mean government, either. It’s implementing an idea that can fix inequities and issues in society. It’s about guaranteeing the protections and rights we’re promised are protected. Firms anywhere, from Lockheed Martin to Palantir, have feet in the policy pond. It’s a part of most any firm, and worth exploring!
Prakash Mishra is a systems science and engineering major concentrating in business, economics, and public policy (BEPP), and statistics. He is a member of the Class of 2019 and plans to go into public policy research and/or urban planning after graduation. His favorite part of the M&T Program is the variety of ways to view policy. With a different quantitative perspective than the average economist and experience from systems engineering and urban planning, he sees this integrated perspective opening multiple doors for his future.