Exploring Data & Cities Panel Discussion

Exploring Data & Cities Panel Discussion

Time: Friday, March 22nd | 5-6:30 PM

Location: Spark! Space, 2nd Floor, Center for Computing & Data Sciences, 665 Commonwealth Ave., Boston

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As complex data analysis techniques become more salient in various aspects of government, there is enormous potential for quantitative analysis to improve public policy outcomes. Data tools are essential for assessing effectiveness, impacts, and potential challenges in different policy areas, such as economic growth, climate challenges, and traffic issues. At the same time, integrating data into government raises questions about privacy, equity, and accountability and necessitates guidelines for data usage and standards to ensure best practices across departments.

Hosted in Boston University's Center for Computing & Data Sciences and supported by BU Initiative on Cities, the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences, and BU Spark!, the Data & Cities event brings together a panel of the City of Boston and state-level officials working at the nexus of data analysis, data governance, and urban policy. The discussion will center around the challenges and opportunities of implementing data-focused strategies in government. Following the panel discussion is a Q&A session with the audience and an open networking session.


Dr. Jen Prescott, PhD - Senior Director of the Office of Performance Management and Innovation at MBTA
Jen Elise Prescott has 15 years of experience working in systems research, data, and analytics. She serves as the Senior Director for the Office of Performance Management and Innovation (OPMI), an office that works with both MassDOT and the MBTA in performance management, data, and research. Prior to joining OPMI over five years ago, she worked for about a decade as an education researcher, where she studied collaboration in and with school districts, community organizations, and other non-governmental agencies. Jen Elise holds her doctorate in Child Development from Tufts University, a master’s in Child Development from Tufts University, and a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from UConn.

Aleja Jimenez Jaramillo - Director of Tech Governance & Policy in Boston's Department of Innovation & Technology
Aleja Jimenez Jaramillo (he/they) is the Director of Tech Governance & Policy in Boston's Department of Innovation & Technology. His role is the first of its kind at the City, and he's discovering that it broadly falls into two categories of work: creating organizational infrastructure to identify and prioritize technology needs across the City of Boston (governance) and creating systems to shape behavior related to technology across the City (policy). Prior to his current role, aleja received his Master's Degree in Technology Policy from MIT, where he wrote a thesis that investigated how cities in the United States are using policy to formalize their data governance practices and values. Before grad school, he had a classically eclectic Millennial job history working in education, the foster care youth system, healthcare consulting, and advertising technology. He received his B.A. in Neurobiology from Harvard College.

Christopher Kramer - Energy Manager, Environment Department, City of Boston
Chris Kramer has been the Energy Manager for the Municipal Energy Unit (MEU) since August 2019. Chris collaborates with facilities managers, engineers, and budget analysts throughout the City and provides trends and analysis in energy and water consumption related to all municipally-owned utility accounts. He is focused on decarbonizing City buildings through the Renew Boston Trust program and reporting emissions data to comply with the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO).
Before joining the City, Chris evaluated the effectiveness of state-level energy efficiency programs in the Northeast and Midwest and served as a building science consultant on residential green building projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Chris earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a Minor in Spanish from Washington University in St. Louis. He currently lives in Brighton.

Julia Vasta - Senior Data Analyst, Citywide Analytics Team, Department of Innovation and Technology, City of Boston, MS in Data Science Candidate
Julia Vasta is a Senior Analyst on the Analytics Team at the City of Boston, where she leads strategic data analytics projects with departments across the city. Her work involves building data products, designing analyses to understand policy needs, and helping City leadership make data-informed decisions. Prior to this role, Julia worked as a policy analyst at a local policy research institute. She has a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Spanish from Cornell University and a Master of Public Policy degree from Northeastern University. She is pursuing her M.S. in Data Science at Northeastern University, which she aims to apply to a public sector data science career.


Vijay Fisch
Vijay (he/him) is a sophomore in the Faculty of Computing and Data Science (CDS) pursuing a BS in Data Science and a minor in economics. He works as an office assistant at the Initiative on Cities, a Student Health Ambassador with BU Student Health Services, and as the CDS representative to the BU Senate. He enjoys exploring interdisciplinary approaches to problem-solving around social issues, especially those incorporating machine learning and data analysis into urban planning and public policy.

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