Computational Literacy for Public Policy

Founded more than 70 years ago, the School of Public and International Affairs (SIPA) has continually adapted to the challenges and needs of the times.  In recent years – under the leadership of Dean Merit E. Janow – SIPA has launched a significant new initiative on digital technology and public policy (Tech and Policy initiative) that includes public programming, applied research and new courses.

An important element of Tech and Policy is a new interdisciplinary course, “Computing in Context: Public Policy”, which was developed with crucial support from Collaboratory@Columbia.  Now in its third year, the innovative course will be co-taught in Fall 2018 by award-winning instructor Adam Cannon, Senior Lecturer in Machine Learning, and Scarlett Swerdlow, SIPA Adjunct Lecturer.  The course introduces SIPA students to computational thinking, including Python programming, then teaches students to apply that way of thinking to public policy issues.  Several graduates of the course have gone on to apply their new knowledge to capstone workshop projects in their final semester, when they undertake real-world policy and management challenges for external clients.

About the Collaboratory Fellows Fund:
Technology and massive data are reshaping society in profound ways. To be effective, the leaders of tomorrow will need to understand how these transformations are impacting their professions, now and in the future. The Collaboratory Fellows Fund is developing the coursework to allow students to master the technical skills and cultivate the creative thinking to confront the unique challenges in their chosen careers.