For Alana Levin (W’21), gaining experience in the public sector has been an integral part of her business education. She spent this past summer in the Office of Inspections and Compliance at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, learning about how government interacts with and regulates the financial services industry. At the SEC, Alana got the chance to work on investigations of how banks are using big data to build more sophisticated economic models. She enjoyed seeing how the SEC was responding to technological changes that allow banks to include more data in their analysis. One of Alana’s favorite aspects of the investigations was learning about how the SEC and the banks it regulates deal with one another. “I’m really interested in the relationship between the private sector and the government. Since the hedge funds can make it harder for the SEC to conduct investigations by requiring them to be on site and look at everything on paper, and the SEC can choose how wide-ranging their investigation will be, it’s important for both sides to maintain a positive working relationship, and negotiate for their mutual benefit.” As part of her work at the SEC, Alana co-wrote a memo about trends in big data use by hedge funds for circulation throughout the agency, building on the work of a previous Penn intern. Working there also came with perks: through the SEC, Alana got the opportunity to do a behind-the-scenes tour of the Supreme Court.
Alana had begun to explore the connections between business and public policy the previous summer, by working as a research assistant to Professor Ryan Brutger. Alana’s RA work involved examining a database of over 300 international negotiations and categorizing them by subject area and outcome, among other factors, so that Professor Brutger could understand which negotiation methods are most effective. She got this opportunity through the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship program (PURM), a program that connects freshmen and sophomore students with research projects on campus, with a strong focus on mentorship. It gave Alana “an entrée into research and professional experience, and the best part is the emphasis on professional development and the balance between providing a work opportunity and a chance to learn and grow as a professional.”
Alana also has enjoyed being part of the Public Policy Research Scholars program, especially the opportunities she gets to meet and discuss public policy with a variety of practitioners. For Alana, having dinner with former CFPB Director Richard Cordray last year was a highlight. “It was really cool to hear about his experience transitioning in and out of the public sector. While working at the SEC this summer, an organization with a similar mission to the CFPB, having a better understanding of how the government seeks to regulate business was very valuable.” She would encourage all students interested in public policy to apply to the scholars program: “It’s a wonderful community, and it provides a structured opportunity to delve deeper into public policy.”
Since her freshman year, Alana has been a member of the Wharton Global Research and Consulting club, first as a researcher working to help non-profits and NGOs to help them solve problems, including helping the World Bank to identify how the private sector can better respond to public health emergencies. Each year, Alana has gotten more involved, working as Research Project leader, then Director of Research and now as the President of the club. Alana is now working to expand the club to other schools and continue to build the strong sense of community and social engagement that initially drew her to the club freshman year. This summer, Alana is excited to build on the skills she’s learned through the club with an internship at Boston Consulting Group.