Write an essay where you tell us about what drives you in your pursuit of your graduate degree.

Two years ago, shortly after reading the book "Automating Inequality" by Virginia Eubanks, I started rethinking my career path. The book details the ways that minorities, women, and low-income Americans are getting left behind in the age of automation, now that algorithms and predictive models rather than human beings increasingly make decisions about who gets access to social housing and other social services. Having grown up in an immigrant family that depended on government assistance and food banks, I felt compelled to do something about this issue, especially given my memories of my family getting denied or accepted for certain benefits without clear reasoning; I believed that if automation were being introduced to social services, it should make the process easier, not more convoluted and unfair. Gradually, I realized that in order to make a compelling impact in this area, I needed to gain a stronger command of data science and public policy than my current analytics background, so that I may understand the intricate technical challenges facing automation as well as the best ways to solve them. Accordingly, I've decided to pursue a Master of Arts in Quantitative Methods for the Social Sciences at Columbia University this fall.

I am alarmed at the growing ubiquity of algorithms in determining access to critical services such as financial credit and social services, despite their opacity and inaccessibility to the general public. If a critical automated service claims to be free of bias, those assertions should be dissected and critiqued by people who intricately understand them. The technical rigor of algorithmic trading makes it challenging for traditional policymakers to understand and adequately protect public interest; I see an opportunity in bridging this knowledge gap, and my towards this goal is through my graduate degree.

Cindy from New York
Columbia University