The third cohort of DEDP master’s students live and learn fully in person at MIT

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A lecturer stands in front of a screen, facing a room filled with students seated at desks.
DEDP faculty director Sara Ellison welcomes the 2022 cohort to MIT during the program's orientation session in January.
Photo: Evan Williams | J-PAL

From facing the challenges of a transition to fully remote learning in 2020 to developing a flexible hybrid learning model that allowed the class of 2021 to get as much valuable time together as possible, the Data, Economics, and Development Policy (DEDP) master’s program has overcome unpredictable circumstances with remarkable success. This year, the 2022 cohort of students have finally been able to spend their spring semester fully in residence on campus, attending all classes in person, participating in seminars, tackling midterms, and enjoying a well-deserved spring break.

The DEDP master’s program builds on the five-course online MicroMasters credential in Data, Economics, and Development Policy, bringing an exceptional group of students to MIT for an accelerated master’s program. After one semester of classes on campus and a summer capstone internship, they earn their degree in just 8 months.

The 2022 cohort is an especially large and dynamic class, with 31 students representing twenty home countries and diverse backgrounds and experiences. The DEDP program’s innovative admissions process and format bring students from fields such as tech, government, finance, non-profits, engineering, and public health together to learn from MIT’s world-class economics faculty.

Through courses on topics ranging from development policy to psychology, energy economics, trade, and more, students are diving into their own interests and exploring new concepts.

Max Hasan, a DEDP student from Indonesia and the United States, says a course on using machine learning techniques for causal inference and prediction is a favorite: “I personally find the subject matter highly practical and engaging because I've seen plenty of the models that Professor Victor Chernozhukov covers (such as decision trees, lasso regressions, and gradient boosting) during my career, but was never exposed to the underlying academic theories that explain how they work behind the scenes.”

Marc Tan, from Singapore, describes the excitement of taking econometrics from 2021 Nobel Laureate in economics Josh Angrist and quickly realizing he was facing a challenge. “Over time, with consistent effort (and the professor’s humor fuelling us), we began to realize how critical Professor Josh’s work is for the entire field of empirical economics being used around the world.”

Making a mark at MIT

Being back together on campus with students is a highlight for DEDP faculty directors as well as students. Sara Ellison, who joined founding faculty directors Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Ben Olken in 2021, says that interacting with the DEDP students on campus is a highlight of the role. “They are bright and engaged—just as you would expect from MIT students—but they’re also so earnest and dedicated to making the world a better place. Their optimism and dedication combined with MIT’s deep problem-solving ethic and cutting edge toolkit is a formidable combination.”

Academic challenges bring students together as a community, but the experience of being at MIT extends beyond classes and research. DEDP classmates have explored Boston and taken spring break trips together, made new friends, and discovered MIT’s banana lounge (and turned some of the bananas into delicious banana bread to share). Max Hasan reports one of his favorite memories was celebrating the end of midterm exams and the start of spring break by joining a few classmates for karaoke, and being surprised that the cohort’s talents include singing and dancing!

The DEDP master’s students are halfway through their spring semester and already preparing for the summer and beyond. After completing a summer capstone project, they will graduate in August and take on their next goals. Chuka Ezeoguine, a DEDP student from Nigeria, recently spoke about his career path from engineering to interning with J-PAL Africa to MIT and more: “After the program, I would love to continue working to alleviate poverty and positively impact lives using evidence-driven approaches.”

Join the DEDP program

For those interested in joining the DEDP master’s program, the next application cycle will open in December 2022. In the meantime, interested applicants can start their journey by enrolling in the MITx MicroMasters in Data, Economics, and Development Policy—summer classes begin on May 31, 2022, and more information about the MicroMasters is available online. Completing the online five-course MicroMasters credential is a key component of the DEDP program, allowing students to earn their master’s degree on an accelerated timeline.

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