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December 2017 Newsletter


Message from Tim Vogelsang, Chair of the Department of Economics

Tim VogelsangWelcome to our 2017 Newsletter.  I am happy to report that the Economics Department at MSU continues to thrive and grow to meet the educational needs of students and to carry out world class research.

Graduates with degrees in economics continue to be in high demand, especially as the labor market for new college graduates continues to strengthen. There was recent article in the New York Times about lifetime earnings based on college major. Economics ranked second behind chemical engineering. It is no surprise that the economics major remains popular and large at MSU. As I reported last year, the department has been working to meet the needs generated by a 40% growth in the major over the past several years. Through recent hiring of new faculty, the department has been able to increase the offerings of 400 level courses. For a few years seats in 400 level courses would quickly fill up during registration periods, leaving many students on wait lists.  With the additional 400 level courses now being offered, there are enough seats to accommodate all student needs. Removing enrollment pressure in the 400 level courses ensures that majors stay on track to graduate in four years. As I continue to stress in the annual newsletter, 400 level courses give our undergraduates important depth and breadth in economics that they can leverage in their careers and/or future graduate studies. Students are thriving in the major as our undergraduate annual award winners illustrate: http://econ.msu.edu/undergraduate/awards.php.  And, the Econ Scholars Program continues to thrive in its fifth year.

The PhD program has been restructured to put graduate students on research paths earlier in the program. Instead of taking field exams at the end of the second year, students are assigned a faculty advisor/mentor in the second year that helps students construct a plan for research conducted during the summer after the second year. That research continues into the third year leading to a research paper and presentation assessed by faculty during the month of February. The goal is to have PhD students working on dissertation research earlier in the program resulting in higher quality dissertations and greater likelihood of completion within five years. More details can be found here http://econ.msu.edu/about/grad_program_2017.php.

The College of Social Science carried out a strategic planning process last year that has resulted in a plan that will strengthen the College over the next several years. The new vision of the College is “Our Science Transforms the Human Experience and Inspires Leaders”. Several Economics Department faculty members served on the planning committee: thanks to Carl Davidson, Thomas Jeitschko, and Jinhua Zhao. As the plan is implemented, the Economics Department will be participating in generating proposals for research theme areas that will result in faculty hiring. The department is also playing a lead role in the “Learning” component of the plan that focuses on opportunity gaps with an effort to improve mechanisms to support at-risk students in large enrollment courses.

The Department is pleased to welcome two additional new faculty members this year. Ajin Lee and Ben Bushong join the department as Assistant Professors. Dr. Lee received her PhD in economics from Columbia. Her research area is public economics with a focus on the health care sector. Dr. Bushong received his PhD in economics from Caltech and comes to MSU after spending two years at Harvard in a postdoc research position. His research area is behavioral economics. He also does empirical work with machine learning and is part of the Social Science Data Analytics initiative in the College of Social Science. More information about our new faculty can be found here: http://econ.msu.edu/about/new_faculty_2017.php.

Two faculty members in the department received important awards in the past year. Todd Elder received the Outstanding Teaching Award in the College of Social Science. Dr. Elder is a legend for his teaching in the required undergraduate econometrics course, EC420. More information about Dr. Elder and his teaching can be found here[link to Elder teaching award story]. Rachel Croson, the Dean of the College of Social Science and a member of the Department of Economics, was recently named the recipient of the 2017 Carolyn Shaw Bell Award by the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession. This prestigious award honors individuals who have furthered the status of women in the economics profession. Details of the award and Dean Croson’s contributions can be found here http://www.socialscience.msu.edu/about-us/news/msu-dean-honored-for-championing-women-in-economics/

The American Economic Association (AEA) summer training program for college students enters its third year at MSU. The AEA summer program has been in operation for over 40 years and moves around the country. The goal of the program is to provide training to students from under-represented groups that have an interest in pursuing PhD level economics training. The strength of economics and economics education at MSU was a key factor in attracting the summer program. Details of the program and news from the first and second cohort of students can be found here: http://econ.msu.edu/about/AEA_training_program_2016.php

The Economics Department is fortunate to have a large and generous alumni base that continues to provide critical financial support for the department especially in an era of declining/flat state funding for universities. Alumni are also generous with their time, and I am always amazed by the number of dedicated alumni that are willing to travel back to campus to interact with current students and faculty. Plans are underway to bring a large number of alums back to campus during the first Social Science Week the week of March 19-23, 2018. Details can be found here http://www.socialscience.msu.edu/alumni/alumni-events/social-science-week-hidden/

If you have fond memories of your time at MSU and are in a position to give back, please consider contributing to our general fund, or targeting a gift towards a program that you feel passionately about.  Other forms of contributions are welcome as well – visiting campus to meet with students and provide career advice, or helping students with jobs or internships are great ways to give back.  Your support makes an enormous difference in the lives of current and future Spartan economists. The Economics Department’s ability to move forward and serve current and future students as well as the citizens of the great State of Michigan depends on your support.

Thank you and Go Green!

Tim Vogelsang's Signature


Back to December 2017 Newsletter

Michigan State University Department of Economics