New fellowship at UIC examines economics, public policy, social safety net

Erik Hembre
Erik Hembre, assistant professor of economics and SURF program coordinator. (Photo: Jenny Fontaine)

Apply through March 4 for UIC’s Social-influence Undergraduate Research Fellowship, a new four-week intensive summer training program for students interested in economics, public policy and the social safety net.

Ten students selected for the fellowship will receive a $3,000 stipend and have an opportunity to gain hands-on experience contributing to an active academic research project. 

“SURF was initiated because of a joint belief that the social science and public policy fields would benefit from increased participation and interest from the many talented students here at UIC,” said Erik Hembre, assistant professor of economics and SURF program coordinator.

Hembre was awarded a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration to start the new undergraduate summer fellowship at UIC.

“This is a unique and novel program because UIC is the only university the Social Security Administration selected to fund the SURF program at,” he said.  

Students selected for the program will read about and discuss the policies, history and effects of social safety net programs such as Social Security and Social Security Disability Insurance. During the program, each fellow also will select a topic to write a short policy brief on and will have an internship opportunity to contribute to an academic research project with scholars from across the country. 

“Fellows will get to engage directly and receive mentoring from experts in the field, such as economists as the Chicago Federal Reserve, and will develop career skills including coding, data analysis, data visualization and presentations,” Hembre said.

Any interested undergraduate students are encouraged to apply, including graduating seniors. Although this will be the inaugural SURF cohort, the program is expected to continue into future years, Hembre said.

Hembre is expecting a fully in-person program at UIC from May 16-June 10, that will meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The internship opportunity following the program will be virtual.

“We are hoping to provide a fun and stimulating atmosphere for this small group of 10 students, filled with student-led discussions, potential field trips, guest speakers, and community meals, as lunch and a light breakfast will be provided each day,” Hembre said.

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