Vivek Ramakrishnan ‘20 spent the summer after his first year at UChicago exploring the streets of the city’s South Side — an experience that helped put him on the path toward his passion of using data to help improve the lives of disadvantaged youth.
Ramakrishnan worked that summer as a field coordinator for MAPSCorps, a project of UChicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative that teams University students with local high school students to collect data about organizations and businesses on the South Side. Their work helps to fill the “information gap” about the assets and resources that exist to serve people in disadvantaged communities.
“I think there is a future where data can be used to genuinely connect people with services who need it the most, and who are currently disconnected from support. I really want to be part of this defining moment to make sure the field moves in the right direction.”
After MAPSCorps, Ramakrishnan chose to major in public policy; later, he interned in the data analytics unit of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, where one of his projects helped determine predictors for youth at risk of aging out of the foster care system. On campus, he serves as co-president of UAID, a student-run organization that fights health inequities on Chicago's South Side through partnerships with nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and health care professionals.
Together, these experiences showed Ramakrishnan that data can be used to make a real impact on people’s lives, and inspired his plan to work eventually for a state or municipal child welfare department. In 2019, he was awarded a prestigious Harry S Truman Scholarship for students pursuing careers in public service, which he intends to use for research into how predictive analytics might be used to improve the child welfare system.