For Tyler Knox (W’20, C’20), coming to Penn was an opportunity to bring together seemingly disparate academic interests in technology, health care, entrepreneurship, and policy. As a rising high school senior, Tyler attended the LEAD Program’s Summer Business Institute at the Wharton School. A collaboration between the Wharton School and the LEAD Program, the Summer Business Institute offers a rigorous, month-long academic enrichment program for high-achieving high schoolers. The experience changed Tyler; having been presented with so many of Penn’s bright faculty and students, Tyler knew that Penn was the place for him.
Among those who made an impression on Tyler was Penn Wharton PPI Managing Director Andy Coopersmith, who discussed his own involvement in the formation of both PPI and Penn’s Life Sciences and Management program. Tyler couldn’t believe his own excitement. “I saw Penn’s LSM Program as the perfect opportunity to bridge my interests in business and science in a coherent academic curriculum, and PPI and its student groups as a way to get involved in the policy realm as well.”
As a high schooler, Tyler was already deeply involved in entrepreneurial endeavors. Inspired by his long held fascination with virtual worlds, Tyler founded Kaylune.com, an online gaming start-up, in 2012. As acting CEO, Tyler continues to lead an international team of 26 contracted artists, developers, and designers to maintain the game, which has over six thousand users. Tyler also founded the Hispanic Scholarship Portal in 2013. “As I was going through the scholarship search process,” Tyler states, “I became frustrated by how difficult it was to identify opportunities for Hispanic students.” In curating the Portal, Tyler brought together an online gateway for students of Hispanic heritage to find scholarships and other educational resources, promoting post-secondary attainment for his Latino/a peers.
Now in his sophomore year, Tyler remains true to the entrepreneurial spirit that brought him here. As a student of the LSM Program, Tyler utilizes his dual major in Biology at the College of Arts & Sciences and Economics at Wharton in an assortment of innovation-based initiatives. He is a member of the Penn Undergraduate Biotech Society’s Consulting Committee, working with scientists and biotech startups to identify and develop marketing opportunities for their clients. He is also involved with Ideas for Action, a Wharton student organization partnered with the World Bank through which he helps to conduct institutional and market research for an urban informatics and civic-tech startup based in Uruguay.
Throughout all of his work, Tyler sees one common thread. “I like to think that public policy is what ties together my varying activities into a coherent narrative,” he says. “Public policy is inherent to online game development (tech/innovation policy), my work with Hispanic Scholarships (education), and my work with LSM (health).” In September, Tyler added to his portfolio of policy-related activities by joining the Honors Program with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s regional office in Philadelphia. Even just within his first few weeks, Tyler feels he has already gained a greater understanding of the regulatory and compliance dimensions of businesses, particularly in the financial service industry. “I see the study of public policy useful to any endeavor,” Tyler affirms, “whether it be understanding innovation technology to launch a biotech startup or financial policy as director of a private equity firm.”
Tyler is also involved in faculty-led policy research on campus. Knowing that his work with the LSM program would eventually lead him to engage in lab research, Tyler took an opportunity to first do academic research in the policy realm. Bringing together topics like technological innovation, international relations, and defense policy, Tyler became a Research Assistant for Professor Michael Horowitz of Penn’s Political Science Department, exploring the proliferation of ballistic missiles and other emerging military technologies. The position allowed Tyler to conduct his own research project as a SPUR scholar, studying the Missile Technology Control Regime of 1987. The research has allowed Tyler to form a fuller appreciation of the circumstances surrounding various elements of defense policy, including the difficulty of stopping nations who are determined to obtain weaponry with policy alone. More importantly, perhaps, is the understanding that the experience has provided Tyler about research. “I have come to both hone my qualitative analytical abilities,” he tells us, “and realize how little one knows when they first begin researching a given area.”
In addition to his work with Professor Horowitz and the SEC, Tyler has been serving as the Vice President of Marketing for the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative Student Group (PPISG). A relatively new group, Tyler sees a bright future for PPISG, which, among other things, maintains the student blog on the Penn Wharton PPI website. “I think PPISG is well-positioned to encourage students to explore public policy who may not have seen themselves having an interest in that area.” Tyler hopes that the group continues to inspire students to take a deeper dive into policy, because as he has seen, policy is one thing that affects us all—regardless of what, or how many, interests one has.