Student and Alumni Spotlights

Tarun Arasu MPP/MPI '24

Quantitative Compassion: A Journey to Data-Driven Policy

Tarun Reddy Arasu

Master of Public Policy/Master of Public Informatics, Class of 2024

Hyderabad, India
Specializations: Energy Economics 
Activities at Rutgers: Treasurer, Rutgers Graduate Student Association;  GSA Liaison, Public Informatics Student Group 
Personal interests: reading, listening to podcasts, watching sports (especially the New York Knicks!), public service, and community engagement. 

Transitioning from electronics engineering to policy wasn’t just a career shift for Tarun, it was a calling. 

His journey towards public service was sparked during his undergraduate years at Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (BITS Pilani). While majoring in energy efficiency and energy economics, he served as the General Secretary of the student body.  

Tarun also volunteered with Nirmaan-Goa, a volunteer organization founded by BITS Pilani students with a passion for fulfilling their responsibility towards the less privileged people of the society; orchestrated a record-breaking blood donation drive; and aided flood relief efforts in Andhra Pradesh. “Though these activities,” he said, “I realized my purpose.” 

“I do have a knack for quantitative analysis, but my heart is set on societal impact,” he said. “At the Bloustein School I’ve found my stride, blending data science with public policy to architect change in the dual Master of Public Policy/Master of Public Informatics degree program.” 

During his first year at Rutgers, he worked as a research assistant writing about energy access and equity for the New Jersey State Policy Lab. In “Aspects of Energy Inequity in New Jersey,” he notes that the costs and benefits of energy efficiencies are distributed disproportionately. As society continues to grapple with climate change, he posited that we must remain cognizant of inequities that emerge, including higher energy burdens among low-income households. 

“As a follow-up, I presented viable options for addressing this issue, and encouraged a broader conversation about the importance of creating a more equitable energy landscape for all,” he said. “For example, the transition to more sustainable sources will require various policy measures to support and address the needs of different communities that are impacted by the shift away from fossil fuels.” 

He also worked with the Policy Lab’s Digital Equity Initiative team to map the 2020 American Community Survey data. The team observed what, if any, correlations there were between race, education, and employment regarding access to the internet and digital technology. 

Being named a Board of Public Utilities Fellow at the Rutgers Center for Urban Policy Research has furthered his interest in energy policy. “I’m exploring the domain of program evaluations and energy modeling. This fascination isn’t just academic; it’s a call to action,” he said. “Through this work, I envision delving deeper into the realms of energy economics, where the nuances of policy, technology, and economics converge to shape sustainable futures.” 

Ultimately, Tarun sees himself transitioning into a role blending analytics with actionable insights, possibly within energy modeling and analytics. His goal is to create pathways towards sustainable energy practices, influence policy, and drive innovation. 

“My journey at Bloustein has been nothing short of remarkable, thanks to a lineup of professors who’ve not just educated me, but inspired and guided me,” he concluded. “From Dr. Julia Rubin and Dr. Ruth Winecoff, my advisors, who have been my compass through the rollercoaster of grad school, helping me navigate challenges with grace and wisdom. Dr. Radha Jagannathan unlocked the world of data science and statistics in policy for me. Dr. Jennifer Senick’s insights into project management in academia have been nothing short of a masterclass in leadership.”  

“I am beyond grateful for their mentorship, their enthusiasm, and the countless ways they’ve contributed to my growth. The realm of public policy demands a heart committed to learning and contributing to societal well-being, and future students should let their passion be their guide.”