SOM in South Africa

February 1, 2011

It's hard to top the International Experience that we enjoy during the spring break of our first year at SOM. Yet this year, 11 of my classmates and I were fortunate enough to go with Prof. Jim Levinsohn to South Africa for two weeks over winter break as part of a class we took in the fall semester that we called, simply, The South Africa class. How would I sum up the trip if given only one word? Amazing.

SOM Classmates on top of Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town, South Africa

Our class spent the fall semester learning how to analyze a comprehensive household income survey conducted by the University of Cape Town. With over 30,000 responses to over 1,000 variables, it was a rich data set that allowed us to draw fascinating insights about the current state of South Africa's development. We learned over the course of the semester how to analyze the data and answer complicated questions that could help policymakers and leaders of NGOs determine where to direct resources. We then took these skills to the University of Cape Town to run a two-week workshop in the largest computer lab on the continent that condensed what we learned over the course of the semester into 10 days. We taught 80 students from government, NGOs, and academia around southern Africa how to analyze data using statistical methods and software. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to watch the workshop participants start from practically nothing to finishing the course with an understanding of how to do complex analysis.

Brigitte Hoyer (SOM '11) helping a workshop participant

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Jason Kearns