Hackathon Explores Ideas for a More Equitable Pandemic Recovery

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Hacking Equity 2021: How to Plan for a More Equitable Society After COVID-19

We know COVID-19 has affected populations inequitably, hitting vulnerable communities especially hard. We also know that young people—given the right tools and knowledge—will change the world for the better.

That’s why RAND Corporation, through its NextGen Initiative, and Pardee RAND Graduate School partnered with the Atlanta University Center (AUC) Consortium—Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College—to create the RAND–AUC Consortium Tech and Public Policy Hackathon, Hacking Equity.

This unique virtual hackathon, designed by the Pardee RAND Tech + Narrative Lab, teamed AUC undergraduates with Pardee RAND graduate students. Mentored by RAND researchers, the student teams used large datasets to identify social issues and explore promising policy solutions for a more equitable recovery from the pandemic.

After weeks of collaboration, the teams shared their final presentations to a panel of judges, who declared two winners. Undergraduates from the winning teams were treated to a lunch and were part of a promotional video produced by RAND.

How Was This Hackathon Different?

Hackathons are designed to bring teams together to solve problems.

By connecting emerging leaders of color with experienced policy analysts and doctoral candidates, this hackathon allowed for a wide range of fresh insights and creative explorations, while deepening undergraduate students’ understanding of policy. The program followed in the footsteps of the Pardee RAND Faculty Leaders Program, which aims to build diversity in the field of public policy.

Who Was Involved?

Student Teams

Two dozen AUC students participated, representing a wide range of interests and goals. Their majors were political science, engineering, cybersecurity, sociology, and more. Their career aspirations were just as diverse, including criminal defense attorney, AI developer, public health physician, cultural anthropologist, and climate change engineer.

They were joined by doctoral candidates in the policy analysis program at Pardee RAND who come from a variety of disciplines. Pardee RAND Ph.D students pursue research across a wide range of policy issues, including health policy, education, environmental equity, technological equity, and more.


Angelica Geter, Dr.P.H.

Chief Strategy Officer, Black Women’s Health Imperative

Raynard Kington, M.D., Ph.D.

Head of School, Phillips Academy, Andover; Trustee, RAND Corporation; Board of Governors, Pardee RAND

Michael Scholtens, M.S.

Data Analyst, Digital Threats to Democracy, The Carter Center

Asya Spears, M.S.

Ph.D. Candidate, Pardee RAND Graduate School; Alumna, Spelman College

Malcolm V. Williams, Ph.D.

Senior Policy Researcher, RAND; Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Advisor, Pardee RAND


Ben Boudreaux, Ph.D.

Policy Researcher; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Kathryn Edwards, Ph.D.

Economist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Gavin Hartnett, Ph.D.

Information Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Toyya Pujol-Mitchell, Ph.D.

Operations Researcher and Health Data Scientist

Jonathan Welburn, Ph.D.

Operations Researcher; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Jhacova Williams, Ph.D.

Associate Economist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Melanie Zaber, Ph.D.

Economist; Codirector, RAND Middle-Class Pathways Center

Li Ang Zhang, Ph.D.

Information Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School


Barbara Harris-Combs, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology, Clark Atlanta University; Alumna, Pardee RAND Faculty Leaders Program

Stefanie Howard, M.A.

Assistant Dean, Admissions and Strategic Initiatives, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Osonde Osoba, Ph.D.

Senior Information Scientist; Professor and Tech + Narrative Lab Co-Director, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Todd Richmond, Ph.D.

Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School; Director, Pardee RAND Tech + Narrative Lab

Rachanee Srisavasdi, M.B.A.

NextGen Initiative Director, RAND Corporation

Sinead Younge, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology, Morehouse College; Director, Institute for Social Justice Inquiry and Praxis, Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership; Alumna, Pardee RAND Faculty Leaders Program

About RAND, Pardee RAND Graduate School and the Tech + Narrative Lab

RAND is a research and analysis organization dedicated to deep knowledge and ingenuity. We are nonpartisan and nonprofit, committed to solving the toughest problems facing the world today.

RAND educates the leaders of tomorrow through the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Based in Santa Monica, CA, Pardee RAND has specialized in graduate-level policy education since its founding in 1970. It offers both a two-year M.Phil. in policy analysis as well as a full-time, fully funded Ph.D.

In Pardee RAND's Tech + Narrative Lab, students apply new and emerging technologies to study policy problems, create novel solutions, and understand policy implications of technology.