Social insurance fellowship program primed for second year

Thanks to another round of funding from the U.S. Social Security Administration, University of Illinois Chicago students have the opportunity to take part in the Social-insurance Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

The four-week intensive summer training program was launched last year in the department of economics and provides students with an introduction to social insurance and social safety net policies, and experience researching these programs and their impact on economically vulnerable populations. Benefits of the program include mentoring based on student interests and objectives, and skills development through coding, data analysis, data visualization and presentations.

Up to 15 motivated students interested in economics, public policy or the social safety net will be selected for the fellowship, which offers a $3,000 stipend and direct experience contributing to an active academic research project. Undergraduate students, including graduating seniors, of all experience levels and backgrounds are encouraged to apply through March 4.

“The SURF program was a lot of fun last year, and we are looking to build on that success in year two now. We are particularly interested in applications from students with backgrounds currently under-represented in economics and policy fields,” said Erik Hembre, UIC assistant professor of economics and SURF program coordinator.

Program highlights include a visit to the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, student debates on current policy issues, discussions with national leaders in poverty and social insurance policy, book discussion groups and data visualization training. Each fellow will also write a policy brief focused on a topic of their choice.

Following the four-week program, students will participate in a virtual internship with a researcher currently funded to investigate these topics.

Sarah Ahmad, a junior majoring in economics and mathematics, was part of last year’s inaugural cohort. Through an internship, she conducted data analysis and visualization for a project led by Stephanie Moulton, an Ohio State University professor of public affairs, that examined the COVID-19 pandemic and older adults’ employment and economic security.

“Being a part of an actual research team was a really exciting opportunity. It was my first time being in a research setting like that, and I got the chance to learn more about the research process and use my current skills to contribute to ongoing research,” she said.

Ahmad enjoyed her experience in the SURF program and recommends it to anyone interested in economic research.

“You’ll get the chance to meet like-minded individuals at UIC and learn in a really collaborative and engaging environment,” she said.

The 2023 SURF program will be held at UIC from May 15-June 9, and is scheduled to meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch and a light breakfast are provided.

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