Q&A with PhD Candidate Mariella Gonzalez
MACRM ‘16, PhD (expected 2020)
HOMETOWN: Lima, Peru
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BA and MA in economics, Universidad del Pacifico
PREVIOUS EMPLOYMENT: APOYO Consultoría and Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones
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 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 have to work on a research project of interest. My project was devoted to figuring out if being located near, or being involved in, mining has an impact on election outcomes in Peru. 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. That’s what I did.
Was there a particular faculty member at Harris that most supported you?
I took a class with Professor James Robinson called “The Political Economy of Development.” He gave me a lot of feedback on my research project that was incredibly helpful. Honestly, all the faculty members at Harris offer you feedback along the way. I feel very supported at Harris.
What should others interested in the MACRM program know?
It’s a challenging program. At the same time, there is so much reward. You will actually be at a PhD level because you are taking PhD classes with PhD students. You will also be Involved in different research projects that will give you strong tools for research, as well as faculty recommendations should you choose to pursue the PhD.
You came from Lima, Peru. Was it hard to make Chicago your home?
Even though moving to Chicago was my first time living on my own and it was a huge change, Chicago is my home now. I love this city. Chicago is such a big city that offers anything that you need. I also enjoy Hyde Park. There is a lot so close to the University.