Vaibhav Sharma, Photo Editor

This weekend, members of the Roosevelt Institute at Yale and the Roosevelt Network at Yale-NUS convened for the first ever Global Policy Conference.

The Roosevelt Institute at Yale and the Roosevelt Network at Yale-NUS are Yale and Yale-NUS’ respective chapters of the Roosevelt Network, a student think tank with programming designed to teach students about policymaking, research and activism. The conference featured eight events held on Zoom that covered topics ranging from statistical models of the COVID-19 pandemic to illegal drug policies, and it featured many Yale and Yale-NUS professors and other experts from the global policy field. Following the conference, the two groups are also holding a global policy hackathon next weekend.

“The rationale for the conference was to hype up the hackathon, and secondly, to provide kind of a primer for the issues,” Lim Tian Jiao, Yale-NUS class of 2023 and president of the Roosevelt Network at Yale-NUS, told the News. “But at the same time, we have to strike kind of a fine balance between giving them stuff that is useful, and revealing too many details about a case.”

The hackathon will feature two cases: one regarding COVID-19 and the other regarding clean energy in China. After the case specifications are announced, groups of four to six students will have 24 hours to write a policy memo detailing a solution to the issue. From there, the organizers will choose six memos for judges to review. The policy hackathon is a twist on the traditionally computer science-focused event, combining the collaborative elements of a normal hackathon with a global issue case competition to fit the Roosevelt Network.

In the fall, Roosevelt Network members learned how to write policy memos and op-eds. The experience of writing memos last semester prepared students for their work in the hackathon and for a future in policy as, according to Lim, memo writing is “the most important pedagogical takeaway that [they] want [members] to have.”

“The Policy Conference and Hackathon empower students to think critically and challenges them to create policy solutions to pressing global issues,” Jen Huang ’22, co-president of the Roosevelt Institute at Yale, wrote in an email to the News. “We’re hoping that they work together to give students an opportunity to meet, collaborate, and learn from other students and policy experts.”

Department chair and professor of Public Health at the Yale School of Medicine Mark Schlesinger kicked off the conference with his presentation “How the COVID Pandemic Has Reshaped the American Psyche,” talking about how COVID-19 has affected people’s viewpoints on the government and mental health, as well as the factors that contribute to new perspectives on these issues.

Each event found a way to include policy, either its creation or its reception. Schlesinger’s presentation, for example, focused more on the latter.

“COVID represents, for the first time in literally a century, a shock or an impact on society that combines both health threats and economic threats simultaneously,” Schlesinger said. “However, as unique as the COVID epidemic has been, it also illustrates some deeper processes which drive the way in which people think about public policies and respond to public policies, more generally, in the US.”

One of the events, which featured Yale-NUS residential life officer and Roosevelt Network faculty advisor Tinesh Indrarajah, focused specifically on policy memo writing and breaking down the practice to prepare students for this weekend’s conference.

While all the events covered a range of topics, most of them in some way found a connection to COVID-19. For example, in a panel titled “A Green Transition in a Post-Pandemic World,” Angel Hsu GRD ’13, who teaches public policy and environment, ecology and energy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discussed how to combat the climate crisis in the context of COVID-19. That panel also featured Alberto Salvo, who teaches economics at the National University of Singapore, and Yew Wei Lit, who teaches comparative politics and environmental studies at Yale-NUS.

“It is the greatest challenge that’s defining our generation,” Hsu said. “How we now address COVID-19 and decide to actually take this opportunity to reset now that we’ve experienced a historic drop in global carbon emissions, I think, is really going to determine how we can then be able to have any chance of meeting these goals in the future.”

The conference and hackathon mark the first time the Roosevelt Institute and Roosevelt Network groups have worked together, and, according to Lim and Huang, the partnership has proceeded smoothly. Lim explained that their collaboration was inspired by the virtual nature of events during the pandemic.

“We decided to reach out to Jen and see whether there’s any way that we could kind of do something together, especially because back then the pandemic was still pretty new,” Lim said. “We were like, ‘Okay, we can capitalize on the opportunity on Zoom to do something international that we wouldn’t have thought of before this.’”

The hackathon will kick off on Feb. 26 at 10 a.m. EST.

Adam Levine |