Program Overview

Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College will provide up to 30 PPIA students the opportunity to gain the key skills needed to solve problems at the intersection of people, policy, and technology. This seven-week Junior Summer Institute (JSI), held on the CMU campus in Pittsburgh, PA, provides intensive training in quantitative analysis and leadership, including courses in policy research, statistics, and economics in our traditional policy-focused JSI track. We also now offer PPIA students a specialized Data Analytics JSI track. The Heinz College Data Analytics JSI is ideal for students who are passionate about using big data and technology for social good. Topics may include smart cities and equity, cybersecurity, the ethics of artificial intelligence, algorithmic bias, and digital transformation in government.

Students take four classes, attending five days a week; at the conclusion of the program, students receive an evaluation of individual progress as well as course grades and an official Carnegie Mellon University transcript. In addition to learning from our world-renowned faculty, JSI students will be exposed to research activities from our leading research centers, including the Block Center for Technology and Society, Metro21 Smart Cities Institute, and Traffic21 Transportation Research Institute.

At the graduate level, Heinz College offers several public policy programs, including our flagship Master of Science in Public Policy and Management (MSPPM) program, as well as a specialized MSPPM pathway in Data Analytics, and the MSPPM: Washington D.C. pathway that provides depth in policy analysis and practical experience in our nation’s capital.

Students receive: $1,000 stipend, meal allowance of $1,000, one round-trip airfare ticket, university housing, an official Carnegie Mellon University transcript, and required books. JSI alumni are eligible for a full tuition scholarship and additional financial awards if admitted to a Heinz College master’s degree program (details below).


Traditional Track Coursework:

Applied Statistics for Public Policy

This course is an intensive introduction to statistical methods. Topics covered include: descriptive statistics, elementary probability, random sampling, and hypothesis testing. Throughout the course students will use computational functions in Excel as well as the statistical capabilities available through the Data Analysis Toolpak. The course culminates in a final project for which students apply the concepts and skills learned to a topic and dataset aligned with their individual interests. (Students with a strong statistics background may request an exemption and/or may have the option to take an exemption exam during PPIA orientation. If exempted, an alternative course will be added).

Applied Economics

This course will introduce students to the basic concepts and tools of microeconomics and welfare economics, which are used to analyze public policy from an economic perspective. We will apply economic concepts in a practical way, using current events as supplied by the textbook and additional readings. Critical thinking skills will be further developed by using economic theory as a foundation for problem analysis. Examples of issues include: Is free trade a good thing? Is a minimum wage increase a good goal for society? How can the government reduce air and water pollution? (Students with a strong economics background may request an exemption and/or may have the option to take an exemption exam during PPIA orientation. If exempted, an alternative course will be added).

Experiments, Behavior and Development

Traditional economic models have helped us understand a great deal about the process of economic development. Still, many nations remain mired in persistent poverty, low levels of economic growth, and underachievement on numerous measures of human-centered development. This course will look at insights from randomized controlled trials and behavioral economics that may help us understand some of this persistence at the “micro” (individual and market) level. We will contrast the insights from this work with those of traditional economic models in areas like poverty, education, health, and finance.

Poverty and Social Policies

The goals of this course are to analyze the concept of poverty and its measurements and selected social policies pursued in Western Europe, the U.S. and in developing countries. The first section of the class will analyze and define poverty and inequality measurements. The second section will focus on the concept of the Welfare State and anti-poverty policies pursued in Western Europe. The third section will focus on the U.S and will analyze health, housing, social security, and welfare policies in the U.S. The fourth section will analyze poverty and the behavior of the poor in very poor countries or poor regions of the world. It will also include a discussion of specific policies such as micro financing, conditional and unconditional cash transfers (also known as Universal Basic Income).

Data Analytics Track Coursework:

Applied Statistics for Public Policy

See above.

Applied Economics

See above.

Introduction to Data Science

The Age of Data—currently, we are in the midst of the next disruptive age of information systems and technology. In 1945, electronic computers ushered in the first disruptive age of hardware. We have seen various hardware instances such as mini-computers, supercomputers, personal computers, handheld computers, wearable computers, and cloud computing. Paralleling advances in hardware, there have been many advances in software for solving a range of problems. Starting around the late 1960s to the explosion of the Web in the early 90s, the ability for computer systems around the world to transmit and share data has represented another disruptive transformation. The combined advances in hardware, software, and communication forms the basis of our current disruptive Age of Data. Massive amounts of data are available in a range of domains: science, commerce, finance, healthcare, social media, real-time sensors, etc. At historically unprecedented levels, we are able to collect, transmit, curate, and process huge amounts of data at enormous speeds resulting in our ability to do ongoing tasks better and to do tasks we couldn’t do before. This course is an introduction to the techniques and tools for analyzing and distilling actionable knowledge from data.

Smart Transportation: Issues of Equity

Communities all around the world are being built and re-invented as “smart cities” and “smart communities,” utilizing innovative applications of information and communications technology. Transportation is a major component of smart cities; this trend provides great opportunity for improved transportation safety and efficiency but also poses challenging public policy questions around equity. What policies can be put into place to ensure equitable deployment (i.e. rural/urban divide, racial and socioeconomic disparities)? In this course students will develop an understanding of the underlying dynamics of the smart cities trend, various smart transportation technologies, and current public policy concerns. Students will engage with a real-world client to tackle a problem the client is facing, applying smart transportation principles to propose solutions that mitigate issues of inequity.

This course is sponsored by Traffic21, a transportation research center at Carnegie Mellon University.


Coursework is supplemented by co-curricular activities to increase awareness of public service careers, leadership and professional development workshops, speaker series, site visits, one-on-one career and graduate admission coaching, and recreational activities in Pittsburgh.

Washington D.C. Trip

Carnegie Mellon University PPIA students will embark on a weekend trip to Washington D.C. in July. Fellows from CMU and Princeton participate in a graduate school speaker panel and graduate school fair in D.C., featuring most of the PPIA Consortium schools. In addition, fellows will visit Heinz College’s D.C. office to hear panels and presentations by PPIA and CMU alumni and faculty. PPIA fellows are expected to attend each scheduled event, and generally have one free evening to enjoy the city on their own.

Undergraduate Course Credit

Credit earned in your PPIA courses will often transfer to your undergraduate institution. Carnegie Mellon University PPIA fellows receive an official transcript to supply to their home institution. Please refer to your home institution’s transfer-credit policy to determine if you are permitted to transfer credit from your PPIA coursework.

Leadership and Professional Development

Students will participate in workshops focused on negotiation techniques, leadership, and data visualization tools.

Career Planning 

Career Services Workshops: Heinz College Career Services provides top-tier services to students, alumni, and employers. Advisers partner with students to provide effective tools and resources for graduate school search and professional development. Students will receive one-on-one meetings with the career services staff to review their résumés and individual strengths.

Office of Admissions & Program Directors: Students will have one-on-one meetings with admissions and program staff members to learn more about applying to graduate school and preparing for life after college.

Tuition Scholarship and Financial Support for Graduate Studies

Students who successfully complete any PPIA Junior Summer Institute and are admitted to a master’s degree program at Heinz College will receive a full-tuition scholarship and a stipend of $6,000 per year. Heinz College offers professional master’s degrees in Public Policy & Management, Information Systems Management, Health Care Policy & Management, Health Care Analytics & IT, Information Security Policy & Management, Arts Management, and Entertainment Industry Management.



Travel and Check-in:              Thursday, June 11, 2020

Orientation:                             Friday, June 12, 2020

First Day of Classes:               Monday, June 15, 2020

Last Day of Program:             Friday, July 31, 2020

Move-out and Travel:             Saturday, August 1, 2020


Contact Information

Program Administrators:

  • Gladys Perez Sriprasert, Director, Carnegie Mellon PPIA Junior Summer Institute and Director of Public Policy and Management programs
  • David Eber, Director of Admissions & Financial Aid

PPIA Junior Summer Institute at Carnegie Mellon University
Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy
Hamburg Hall 1118
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
Email: [email protected] 

Learn more about the CMU JSI and Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy!