Why Engaging with Professionals is Central to the HRDS Program


Graduate students at The American University of Paris are often seeking professional transformation – whether they enroll straight out of an undergraduate degree or after several years of experience. To fully explore the career paths available in often competitive fields, and to discover the ways in which multiple fields intersect, students learn directly from relevant professionals working in a wide range of industries. For students on the MSc in Human Rights and Data Science (HRDS), this means taking the Data Industry Practicum: a 6-credit series of intensive workshops with experts who are analyzing, in a practical way, the computational, legal, economic and ethical aspects of data use.

Over the course of the Spring semester, students take part in workshops with data industry professionals working in industries as varied as finance, product design and diplomacy. They not only meet and have intimate conversations with those working in the industry, but they get hands-on experience through assessed projects grounded in professional contexts. “The practicum builds on the theories covered in class,” explains Claudia Roda, HRDS Director. “It is vitally important that students be exposed to professional figures who understand data science, as well as the legal and ethical implications of its use.”

These meetings with experts offer two main benefits to students. Firstly, they show students the full range of employment opportunities available to graduates. “These workshops allow students to position themselves career-wise with respect to the profession,” explains Roda. “It really helps build confidence and gives students a sense of the range of professions for which they are qualified.” The series opens with a workshop about one of the most well-known roles for graduates trained in both the legal and technical aspects of data use, that of Data Protection Officer (DPO), but later workshops cover subjects as varied as new technology’s impact on the financial sector and the challenges of the Metaverse for user privacy.

The second key benefit is the practicum’s networking opportunities, as they give students tangible connections to those working at the fascinating intersection of two exciting fields. “All of the experts taking part in the practicum work at the top of their industries,” says Roda. “I learn so much along with my students!” The networking benefits sometimes have an immediate impact, opening new opportunities for students; one 2023 workshop on the ISO standard on Privacy by Design, for example, led to some participating students being invited to contribute their work to an ISO document. One of them was even invited to present in person at an ISO meeting, creating further networking opportunities and enriching the student’s experience.

The practicum’s focus on professional contexts leaves a lasting impression on HRDS graduates. Former student Jackson Vann G’22, who graduated as part of the program’s inaugural intake, currently works as a Data Analyst for the Education in Emergencies Division of UNESCO. He says the practicum’s workshops were one of his favorite memories of his time at AUP. “It gave me a full view of what I could do with my master’s,” he explains. “That was powerful, because I realized there’s a career market for people like me.”

The 2023 edition, which is running over the whole of this Spring semester, includes the following workshops and speakers:

  • Practicing the DPO Profession with Amandine Kashani-Poor, Data Protection Officer for the French Development Agency.
    Looked at the most common issues facing DPOs and the knowledge and skills necessary to address rapidly changing technologies and policies.
  • AI and Privacy in Finance with Dephine Charlot, Senior Managing Counsel for Privacy and Data Protection at Mastercard.
    Explored the legal and regulatory issues raised by the development and deployment of AI technologies in financial industries.
  • Ethical Considerations in Data Visualization with AUP alumna Alex Phuong Nguyen G’12, Analytics Program Manager at Ulula.
    Explored how different data visualization techniques may impact how information is conveyed.
  • Panel Discussion: Ethical AI in Practice with Laurent Ach, CTO of Qwant, and Andrea Marin, Leader at IBM Watson Center Munich and IBM Innovation Studio’s team in EMEA.
    Analyzed the processes that industry leaders can use to ensure AI is used ethically in rapidly evolving technological contexts.
    (Video recording online here)
  • ISO Standards: Deep Dive into the New ISO Standard on Privacy by Design with Michelle Chibba, Antonio Kung, Kai Rannenberg and Jan Schallaböck.
    Introduced the ISO, its workings, its new standard on Privacy by Design and the projects arising from this standard.
  • Privacy and Ethics in Product Design and Operation with AUP alumna Maria-Martina Yalamova ’04, Senior Privacy Counsel at NBCUniversal Media.
    This upcoming event will help students better understand the “Privacy by Design” process through working on real examples of collaboration between privacy, data and legal teams.
  • Metaverse: Virtual Realities or Augmented Collections? with Régis Chatellier, Innovation and Foresight Project Manager at the Department of Technologies and Innovation, CNIL.
    This upcoming event will review some of the current and possible implementations of the Metaverse, such as emotional marketing and biometrics, and their impacts on users’ privacy.