Alumna profile: Sarah Baum
1. Tell me about you?
My name is Sarah Baum. I graduated from Barnard in 2017 where I majored in Economics, on the political economy track. I’m originally from Arlington, Vermont.
2. What is your current position, and how did you get there?
Currently, I’m a Policy Associate at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) where I staff their environment, energy, and climate change portfolio. I support the generation of evidence using RCTs and communicate insights from our research to inform policy making at the intersection of climate change and poverty alleviation.
Following graduation from Barnard, I held various positions in research and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) within economics. I worked as a research assistant for Professor Benshaul-Tolonen with whom I studied the gender implications of extractive industries. I also did a consultancy for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene where I explored the costs of different approaches to respond to outbreaks of disease My passion for the intersection of economic development and health was one that I discovered during my time at Barnard and something that these two experiences really solidified. I moved to Johannesburg, South Africa to serve as a fellow at the global health non-profit, Population Services International (PSI) where I supported their regional research and M&E teams working on HIV self-testing and family planning.
Seeing research and policy as two ends of the same spectrum, choosing to work at J-PAL was a conscious decision to gain more experience with the policy side of things. I saw the value of being able to translate academic research into insights that could inform effective policy action and contribute to a broader culture of using rigorous evidence in decision-making.
3. How is it to work with the Nobel prize winners of 2019?
In addition to the excitement as a J-PAL staff member, we’ve seen a lot of renewed enthusiasm for randomized evaluations—both in terms of the demand for evidence, but also from researchers that are excited to leverage the methodology in their own portfolios. Working in the space of climate change, for instance, we’ve seen a new push for advances in methodologies and measurement to push the frontiers on what is RCT-able.
Barnard gave me a very strong economic toolkit—a technical background, an ability to communicate well, and a confidence to problem solve. Without a clear idea of what I wanted to do upon graduation, having this in my back pocket has given me an incredible amount of freedom to explore and access opportunities along the spectrum of research to policy.