Penn Undergrads and Decision 2020

Students analyze data in the classroom and then bring their skills to NBC on election nights.

Spring/Summer 2020

Political analysis requires data-savvy researchers, whether they are reporting polling data on election night or seeking to understand long-term policy impact. PORES—the Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies—teaches students the high-level analytic and technical skills that complex social science problems demand.

PORES, founded by John Lapinski, Robert A. Fox Leadership Professor of Political Science and Elections Unit Director at NBC News, is home to the University’s only dedicated minor in survey research and data analytics. It offers students opportunities to take their learning outside of the classroom, with research fellowships and work at NBC’s Decision Desk—where results are analyzed and reported—during major elections.

Ketaki Gujar, C’20, voted for the first time in the 2016 election. This year, she worked behind the scenes at NBC. “We got the data in real time, and we would throw it up on TV or online. There’s a pretty fast turnaround,” she says. “Being 21 years old and being able to do that before I even graduated from college was an incredible opportunity.”

“You’re truly diving shoulders-deep into this industry,” adds Leo Chen, C’22. He explains that during primary elections, the students review their graphics, making sure they are as accurate and informative as possible. “These are things you talk about generally in the classroom, but if you actually do them, the stakes are there.”

Ketaki Gujar, C’20, works at a desk at her home; (L-R) Leo Chen, C’22, and his brother, Teddy Chen, study at their home.

Courtesy of Ketaki Gujar & Leo Chen


On the shift to remote learning, Gujar says, “For my last semester, I opted to largely take small seminars. I can’t help but miss how engaging in-class discussions could be. Realizing this, some of my professors began offering virtual discussions, which I enjoyed. With my time as a PORES fellow unfortunately cut short, I am looking for ways to get involved with the political process from home.” She adds that she’s inspired by her fellow seniors and their work to maintain a sense of community. 

Chen says, “In the grand scheme of things, I really have little to grumble about and I’m simply grateful to have my home, my health, my family, and my faith. Truly, the silver linings abound! Regarding my work with PORES, the spirit of those ventures lives on. What a time to be alive and to witness and consider the role of government and our own citizenry at truly historical scales.”