New Fellows Program Taps CAPP Students to Improve Congress Through Tech
Data and technology unlock a multitude of powerful, novel solutions to improve government functionality, enhancing the ability of public institutions to better serve their citizens. A new University of Chicago program, the Congressional Modernization Fellowship, provides a unique opportunity for UChicago Master’s students to work directly with the United States Congress on technology solutions that improve government efficiency and effectiveness.
The fellowship, made possible by a gift from Harris School of Public Policy alumnus Galen Hines-Pierce, MPP ‘17, will fund nine students over three years to work on projects in Chicago and Washington D.C. with the legislative branch of the federal government. First-year students in the Master of Science in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MS-CAPP) program are eligible to apply to the program, which is a partnership between POPVOX Foundation, the Data Science Institute (DSI) and the Harris School of Public Policy.
“For the last nine years, the MS-CAPP program has trained emerging leaders to translate expertise in data and evidence into effective policy solutions,” said Katherine Baicker, dean and Emmett Dedmon Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy. “The Congressional Modernization Fellows program creates an exceptional opportunity for MS-CAPP students to learn these skills while having real-world impact on the functioning of the US federal government.”
Fellows will work with Congressional staff and members on projects that deploy advances in data and computational tools and approaches intended to improve government workflows and operations.
“Around the world, democracies are facing increasingly complex challenges, both foreign and domestic,” said Hines-Pierce. “As free and open societies come together to support one another in an era of rising competition, it’s all the more vital to strengthen our democratic institutions here at home. While technology can’t solve political problems, it can help to uncover hidden consensus, make cooperation and coordination more efficient, and enhance Congress’s ability to gather, make sense of, and more quickly act on information. It’s been an honor to partner with Harris, DSI, and POPVOX in designing and supporting this urgent and important effort.”
The program will begin in Spring 2023 with fellows engaging in projects through the Data Science Clinic, a project-based course where students work in teams as data scientists with real-world clients from industry, government, academia, and social impact organizations. Fellows will then relocate to Washington DC for the summer quarter to continue their projects in-person with Congressional offices.
In autumn and winter quarters, fellows will return to UChicago as research assistants, maintaining continuity on the projects as new students join the team. Fellows will be supervised by Assistant Clinical Professor James Turk, a civic technology pioneer who worked as Labs Director with the Sunlight Foundation and launched the Open States Project to gather and publish legislative data from local and federal governments.
“Social impact and experiential learning are two of the defining principles of Data Science Clinic and the Data Science Institute writ large,” said David Uminsky, executive director of the DSI. “Integrating this new fellowship with the clinic course will broaden its footprint, providing both the selected fellows and their teammates in the clinic with invaluable experience applying data-driven techniques to real-world challenges at the federal level.”
Fellows will also have the opportunity to collaborate with POPVOX Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that works “to inform and empower people, make government work better for everyone, and contribute to the creation and adoption of effective, responsive modern governing infrastructure.”
Marci Harris, Executive Director of POPVOX Foundation explained: “By partnering with the University of Chicago, we can help prepare future leaders in this space while developing technological solutions to increase technical capacity in the legislative branch and improve public engagement.”
The application period for the first year of the fellowship is now closed, and the inaugural cohort of fellows and projects will be announced this spring. Students starting the MS-CAPP program in the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years will have the opportunity to apply for subsequent installments of the program. Learn more about the Master of Science in Computational Analysis and Public Policy at capp.uchicago.edu.