Real-World Policy Projects Spark Career Plans
Ph.D. Student and Research Assistant, Auburn University
M.P.A. courses in policy analysis and quantitative research methods inspired Xi Chen to pursue a doctorate on the way to a potential academic career.Xi Chen (M.P.A. ’17)
“The academic experience at IIT Stuart School of Business laid the foundation for my future career plans and inspired me to pursue a doctoral program,” says Xi Chen, who is a Ph.D. student in public administration and public policy and a research assistant at Auburn University.
More specifically, Chen says, it was two courses in the Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) program and mentoring on his thesis by Clinical Assistant Professor of Public Administration Joanne Howard that helped to hone his analytical and quantitative skills and sparked his interest in research.
“The courses Policy Evaluation Analytics and Policy Design Analytics provided me with a deep understanding of policy analysis methods, which prepared me to complete real-world policy analysis projects and my degree thesis,” he says. “I am a quant guy and was really inspired by these courses.”
Chen engaged in hands-on projects for various courses, such as doing financial statements and condition analyses of the City of Dallas and Best Buy Co. Inc., and gained on-the-job experience through an internship with a real estate appraisal and consulting firm in the Chicago area. His thesis on “Reform of Changing Agricultural Market into Supermarket” was a formal empirical research project in which he collected raw data by survey and utilized both qualitative and quantitative research methods to analyze the feasibility of a policy implementation in China.
“Dr. Howard was such a great professor and particularly in instructing my degree thesis, with her professional suggestions and patience,” he says. “In addition, she and [M.P.A. Program Director] Roland Calia played key roles in my application for doctoral programs.”
Chen received a scholarship for the M.P.A. program through a cooperative agreement between Illinois Tech and South China Normal University (SCNU), where Chen earned his bachelor’s degree. The two universities have a 3+2 agreement that allows students to double count three courses taken for their master’s degree at Stuart toward their undergraduate degree at SCNU.
After completing his Ph.D., Chen’s career plans are to seek an academic position teaching research methodology, land use planning, and environmental policy or to pursue opportunities as a policy analyst at a think tank or consulting company.