Susan Jacobs graduated in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Economics and Public Policy before returning to complete a Master's in Public Policy.
Susan spent that summer trawling through screeds of data while she worked on a project she describes as "like being on a treasure hunt".
The project was a Summer Research Scholarship to work with Deloitte on a Regional Social Progress Index, comparing various aspects of wellbeing across New Zealand regions.
"New Zealand comes first on a global scale on the Social Progress Index, which includes 54 indicators such as life expectancy, educational opportunities, and housing affordability," says Susan.
"My job was to put those same indicators on a regional scale to find out where our strengths and weaknesses lie."
The project involved extensive web searching and liaison with various government agencies, as well as adapting many of the indicators to fit the data available in New Zealand.
"For instance, statistics on nutrition or malnourishment aren’t recorded on a regional scale so I needed to find comparable measures."
Within 10 weeks, Susan had created a database of raw data ready to turn into an index, and developed a list of recommendations for Deloitte.
"It was stellar work, especially considering the timeframe, and hopefully Susan's work will kick-start future research in this area," says her supervisor Dr Michael Macaulay.
Susan says she appreciated Dr Macaulay's assistance every step of the way.
"I’d never done anything on that kind of scale before. I really enjoyed the experience of working with Deloitte, going to meetings, and working with companies all around the world."
As for the research findings, Susan says because she was working with raw data it's still too early to draw extensive conclusions.
"Of course the issues with housing affordability in the Auckland region showed up but the data also showed that the area did well in health—for instance the Auckland region had lower rates of non-communicable diseases. The data also showed that assault levels were higher in the North Island than in the South Island.
"Once Deloitte has finalised the Regional Social Progress Index from the databases I developed it'll be possible to pick out the patterns better."
A Bachelor of Commerce graduate majoring in Economics and Public Policy, Susan has won multiple awards at the University including the Civil Service Institute Prize in Public Policy and Public Administration two years in a row, and the business school's Award for Excellence in Public Policy.