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#2022APPAM Spotlight: Carnegie Mellon University, Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy


The #2022APPAM Fall Research Conference will feature some fantastic sponsors from across the policy research spectrum. Today we're shining a spotlight on the Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.

What types of programs does your school offer?

Our degree programs are best described as data-intensive social science with an emphasis on using data for social good. By combining policy expertise with quantitative analysis and analytics, we prepare students for meaningful impact in high-stakes domains including: health policy and health analytics, energy and environmental policy, urban policy, social policy, cybersecurity and privacy, smart communities, and digital transformation in society.  

We offer a Master of Science in Public Policy & Management, as well as a specialized track focused on Data Analytics in Public Policy. We teach students traditional skills in policy analysis, but augment that training with competency in data analytics and machine learning, which unlocks new possibilities in policy design and research. Students can pursue concentrations with targeted coursework in the following policy areas where we have significant depth of faculty expertise and scholarship:


  • Energy Systems and Public Policy
  • Environmental Policy
  • Health Policy
  • Urban and Regional Economic Development
  • International Trade and Development
  • Management
  • Cybersecurity and Management
  • Public and Non-Profit Finance
  • Policy Analysis
  • Smart Communities

A firm understanding of policy is essential, but so are the technology and analytical foundations to create the right solutions, and the management skill to deploy those solutions for maximum impact. This philosophy reaches across our public policy programs. 

Our programs all focus strongly on experiential learning and real-world implementation of policy solutions. We equip students with the ability to analyze existing policy, to apply rigorous evidence-based decision making to draw insights and recommendations, and to harness technologies like machine learning to make smarter use of limited public resources in an ethical and human-centered way.  Our curriculum is built around opportunities to engage, collaborate, deliver, and translate solutions for actual government and non-profit partners and their stakeholders in hands-on projects with tangible results.

Policy. Technology. Management. Heinz College is the only place to get all three.

What would you list as your school's greatest accomplishments in the last 5-10 years?

Heinz College faculty played a major role in COVID-19 response and recovery in Pennsylvania, advising government and public health leaders at all levels with evidence-based strategies and recommendations regarding the pandemic’s economic, health, and political challenges. 

Our faculty have stepped into several major leadership roles in their disciplines in the past several years. Our dean, Ramayya Krishnan, served a term as the president of INFORMS, was selected as a Fellow by the National Academy of Public Administration, was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was appointed to the National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee. Recently, Krishnan has worked with the Atlantic Council on a landmark report on the Geopolitical Impacts of New Technologies and Data. Professor Daniel Nagin is the current president of the American Society of Criminology. Professor Denise Rousseau received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Academy of Management and the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Professor Marty Gaynor was elected to the National Academies of Medicine and Social Insurance, and served a term as president of the American Society of Health Economists. Professor Jon Caulkins was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Professor Lee Branstetter is serving on a National Academy committee on the security of America’s medical supply chain.

Many of our faculty received grants and other recognition from the National Science Foundation, including Professor George Chen (Career Award); Professors Lee Branstetter, Beibei Li, and Sean Qian (Civic Innovation Planning Grant Award); Professor Karen Lightman and Ph.D. student Seth Chizek (funding for a project to assist low-income single mothers with transportation); and Professors Alexandra Chouldechova and Rayid Ghani (funding for their work on Fair AI in Public Policy). Professor Rema Padman received a grant from the National Institutes of Health for her work on the development of a digital therapy tool for chronic disease management. Several faculty members received Best Paper awards and nominations, including Professor Alessandro Acquisti (Management Science), Professor Padman (Association of Information Systems SIGHealth), Professor Li and Dean Krishnan (Information Systems Research), Professors Acquisti and Ananya Sen (International Conference on Web Information Systems Engineering). The list goes on, but our faculty continue to have significant impact in their fields.

For 21 years straight, U.S. News & World Report ranked Heinz College #1 in the area of Information and Technology Management. We are also consistently one of the top-ranked programs in policy analysis, urban policy, and environmental policy, amongst other areas. Building on our strengths in the areas of Policy and Technology, Heinz College was one of the first schools to launch a Master of Science in Public Policy - Data Analytics program in 2012. Having two graduate schools—the Information Systems School and the Public Policy School—co-located at Heinz College, it was natural to build and grow a program that trains the policy leaders of the 21st Century. Increasingly, policy leaders and officials need to understand how to use, store, protect, and analyze data to make governments smarter and more effective. For example, we have students who have worked with Professor Rayid Ghani, formerly a data scientist for the Obama administration, to identify and map disruptions to in-person polling places during the pandemic, disenfranchising voters. This analysis led to concrete, immediately implementable recommendations to protect in-person voting. Another group of students worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to build and implement an Innovation Economy Dashboard that is already being utilized in policy decisions. These examples are just a few of the ways our students use technology to rethink what’s possible in public policy.

Carnegie Mellon University was named a charter member of the Public Interest Technology University Network, which was formed to better integrate technology, public policy, ethics, and governance. Our dean, Ramayya Krishnan, was named as CMU’s designee to the network, which has already had a tremendous impact on state and local policy innovation. As part of this initiative, we have also launched the Policy Innovation Lab, an intensive, applied policy course in which students work with clients from government and public service non-profits to design and build public interest technology services with human-centered design. In 2022, we created PITC, a new certificate program in public interest technology. The six-month program empowers the next generation of civic leaders across all areas of government to solve societal problems and lead transformation.

Collaboration and partnership are hallmarks of Heinz College. Fueled by the Heinz Endowments, CMU recently launched the Center for Shared Prosperity The center aims to reimagine the role universities play in our communities, deploying solutions for socio-economic inequities and making measurable progress toward greater economic prosperity and well-being of residents.

Heinz College was awarded the UPS-INFORMS George D. Smith Prize as the #1 school for Analytics Education, making us the only institution of higher learning to receive both the Smith Prize as well as the John von Neumann Theory Prize. This combination of awards demonstrates Heinz College’s deep expertise and commitment to applying operations research, information technology, and analytics to the public policy context. Not only do we pass these skills on to our students, but our faculty conduct interdisciplinary research that breaks new ground in policy areas.

Why should potential students choose your school or program?

We are uniquely interdisciplinary among graduate schools. Our faculty includes economists, statisticians, labor experts, criminologists, computer scientists, data scientists, management experts, operations researchers, and a blend of practitioners from the public and private sectors. Our curriculum reflects this diversity of perspective, which teaches our students to approach problems in novel, innovative ways. 

Through our coursework and emphasis on experiential learning, we teach our students to lead and function on cross-disciplinary teams, while also providing them with the confidence and transferable skills to evolve in an ever-changing and increasingly connected world. We teach students the essential policy analysis and management skills they need to succeed and be influential, and then augment those competencies with novel techniques that draw on Carnegie Mellon’s strength as a global center of excellence in technology and data analytics.

If you are hiring, what makes your school a great place to work?

Our interdisciplinary nature is not just a benefit to students, it’s a huge plus for our faculty. We are not organized into academic departments, which breaks down siloes and unlocks exciting opportunities for collaboration among experts who otherwise may not interact. Being a part of Carnegie Mellon University means we are associated with one the most creative, inventive, and entrepreneurial universities on the planet, and the birthplace of many technologies that are shaping 21st century life. Check out our open faculty positions for Assistant Teaching Professor of Database and Data Science and Teaching Track Faculty in Information Systems (Open Rank).

What is your teaching/research divide?

Our faculty researchers contribute significant scholarship in the areas of health policy and health technology, crime and drug policy and reform, social policy, urban policy, smart cities and transportation, energy and environmental policy, management science, organizational behavior, digital transformation and digital consumer behavior, labor and immigration, information security and privacy, and sustainability. 

Heinz College houses several highly funded policy research centers at Carnegie Mellon, including the Block Center for Technology and Society (); Metro21 Smart Cities Institute; Mobility21, a USDOT University Transportation Center; Traffic21 Transportation Research Institute; and the Digital Transformation and Innovation Center, sponsored by PwC.

What is your undergraduate/graduate divide?

While Heinz College is primarily a graduate school, we collaborate with other Carnegie Mellon departments to offer top-ranked undergraduate programs in information systems. We continue to expand our undergraduate education offerings and create new and innovative ways to develop our policy and information systems programs.  
Our PhD students conduct innovative research that addresses increasingly complex challenges facing society, whether technical, organizational, political, economic, social, or—as is often the case—some combination thereof. Heinz College houses doctoral programs in Public Policy & Management as well as Information Systems & Management. We also collaborate with other departments at CMU to provide joint PhD in Machine Learning and Public Policy; Economics and Public Policy; Statistics and Public Policy; and Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Technological Change.
Public Policy PhD students are currently conducting research in areas including:
Crime and Drug Policy
Health Policy
Energy and Environmental Policy
Organizational Behavior
Information Systems PhD students are currently conducting research in areas including:
Economics of Digitization
Health Care and IT
Information Security and Privacy
Machine Learning and Large-Scale Data Analytics
We also administer several executive education programs that have significant participation from government, military, and national security agencies as well as private firms. Our faculty have opportunities to teach courses to these audiences.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

We are uniquely interdisciplinary among graduate schools. Our faculty includes economists, statisticians, labor experts, criminologists, computer scientists, data scientists, management experts, operations researchers, and a blend of practitioners from the public and private sectors. Our curriculum reflects this diversity of perspective, which teaches our students to approach problems in novel, innovative ways. 

Please reach out to us, connect with us, we'd love to have a conversation with you. Email us at

Is there any other information you'd like to include in your spotlight?

For 18 consecutive years, Heinz College has hosted the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) program which furthers our mission to bring diverse voices and perspectives into the public policy arena.  We are proud to host two tracks of PPIA’s program’s Junior Summer Institute (JSI) each year. We offer a Traditional PPIA-JSI Track that focuses on policy research and analysis, and also a specialized Data Analytics PPIA-JSI Track that gives students opportunities to learn how to use big data and technology for social good.

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