Wagner Students' Policy Proposal Wins $5,000 in National Fels Public Policy Challenge

A new website that will offer comprehensive information about after-school programs to New York City families has garnered national recognition, as have its inventors -- NYU Wagner students Christine Han, Anna Swanby, and Rachel Szala.

The team rose to become one of the top four finalists at the National Invitational Fels Public Policy Challenge, held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on March 17, and received $5,000 for the development of its innovative tech platform, “CluedIn.” Nine teams in all competed for the finalist spots and the grand prize.

This was the second year the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania invited graduate schools across the country to participate in its public policy challenge. In the inaugural opportunity last year, a Wagner student team, Kinvolved, took first prize with an app that enables teachers to communicate readily with parents when a student is absent or late, and tracks causes and trends. Kinvolved has emerged as a for-profit corporation dedicated to improving attendance, particularly among disadvantaged youth. It piloted its app at two city high schools last summer.

In this year’s challenge, CluedIn turned judges' heads with a proposal that responds to the positive correlation between after-school programming and academic improvement —and to the difficulty many parents experience when trying to access New York City’s substantial after-school educational resources. The CluedIn website will provide basic information to parents about the available services, a message board allowing users to pose questions to providers, and snapshots of the market for after-school programming, potentially useful to policy makers, funders, and program developers.

In addition to the Wagner student team, the other finalists heralded by the judges hailed from the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia, the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, and the Fels Institute of Government at UPenn, whose "re:Mind” team won the top prize of $10,000 for its plan for an appointment reminder system for mental health patients to decrease preventable re-hospitalizations.

Wagner’s CluedIn team received support from Professors Shankar Prasad, John Gershman, Will Carlin, and David Schachter, the assistant dean for student affairs. Judges who heard the policy proposals in the Constitution Center – where President Obama delivered his famous speech on race in 2008 – commented positively about the Wagner students’ presentation, with several of them saying that they could hardly believe that so useful and promising an idea had not, until now, been rolled out. One judge even offered to give Han, Swanby, and Szala a personal introduction to leaders at the New York City Department of Education.

Without question, the Wagner team has done us all proud. Congratulations!