Third-year public policy major Vivek Ramakrishnan has been awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship in recognition of outstanding potential as a leader in public service. He will receive up to $30,000 to apply toward graduate study.
Ramakrishnan began engaging with disadvantaged Chicago communities the summer after his first year while working for Chicago-based nonprofit MAPSCorps. There, he began implementing a data-driven approach to effective social policy by leading a team of high schoolers to collect data on resources and assets within various disadvantaged communities.
“I think there is a future where data can be used to genuinely connect services with people who need them the most, and who are currently disconnected from support,” Ramakrishnan told UChicago News.
The following summer, Ramakrishnan worked as an intern at the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, using data analytics to identify predictors for youth at risk of aging out of the foster care system. His project resulted in a report outlining best practices for mitigating foster care age-out risk.
On the UChicago campus, Ramakrishnan serves as co-president of United Against Inequities in Disease (UAID). With UAID, he developed a Community Health Needs Assessment in Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood. The assessment provided the framework for a year-long multidisciplinary wellness and chronic disease training program.
Ramakrishnan would like to spend time working in the public sector, developing strategies to integrate machine learning programs to study and improve social services for disadvantaged families. To continue his data-driven policy research, Ramakrishnan would like to pursue a Ph.D. in economics and eventually enter academia. He hopes to study how data can be used to shape government systems and policy.