Department News, September 2015

Economics Fall 2015 NewsletterBelow is a sampling of updates from the September 2015 Economics Newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click on the thumbnail to the right.

Undergraduate Student Kudos
Graduate News
Faculty Honors
Faculty Research and Teaching
The Economics Alumni Advisory Committee

Undergraduate Student Kudos

Some of our graduates earned distinctions:

Matt ZahnMatt Zahn (pictured), senior economics major at GW and Luther Rice Fellow, was named one of the two 2015 CCAS Distinguished Scholars. The Distinguished Scholar Award is awarded to graduating seniors in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences who have excelled academically and shown commitment to scholarship through participation in research or other academic leadership activities. Matt received his award at the CCAS Celebration event in May where he marched with the dean's party and addressed his peers during the ceremony. Matt's Luther Rice project, jointly prepared with Professor Tara Sinclair, has the working title: “Improving Real-Time Employment Estimates: A State-Space Signal Extraction Approach.” This project has the potential to provide more timely high-quality estimates of employment figures which have been so carefully watched by decision makers in recent years. Watch the Economics Department's Research Program on Forecasting website for updates as Matt and Professor Sinclair plan to post a working paper there soon! In addition, Matt also won First Prize in Economics at the GW Research Days for 2015.

Connor Delaney (pictured) is a senior economics major whose research with Professor Irene Foster has earned him a Luther Rice Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Their paper entitled "Using Concept Maps for Teaching and Learning in Principles of Microeconomics: An Experimental Approach" explores methods of teaching economics that make the concepts more accessible at an earlier state in the learning process. He presented the paper at the American Economics Association annual meeting in Boston in January. View the concept map and read more in a story from Columbian College.

Kathryn Luker won the 2014 Hsieh Prize in Economics for her paper “The Effect of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Social Security Disability Insurance.” Her faculty advisors for the paper were Professor Bryan Boulier and Professor Tim Moore. The Hsieh prize comes with a $500 cash award. It is awarded to the best proseminar paper. The selection process for the prize is quite competitive. For example, students do not submit their papers for consideration; instead, the instructors of proseminar sections nominate their best student papers for consideration. From among these superior papers, the faculty then select the paper they consider to be the best proseminar paper. The selection was not easy this year, for the competition was keen—some of our students wrote exceptional papers. Congratulations on the award, Kathryn.

Kelly Quinn also wrote an outstanding paper. Her paper, “Do Schools With More Pre-Kindergarten Slots Per Capita Perform Better?,” has since been published in the Columbia Journal of Politics and Society. Professor Tara Sinclair was Kelly’s faculty advisor for the paper. Congratulations, Kelly! You are now a published author.

Audra SedlukAudra Sedluk (pictured) has won a GW Undergraduate Research Fellowship for her project “Concept Reinforcement, Testing and Learning in Economics”. The project studies whether additional testing and concept reinforcement leads to better performance by students in principles classes. She will be working under the direction of Irene Foster.

About 12 percent of our graduating majors in 2014 earned special honors in economics. To be awarded special honors in economics, a student must have earned at least a 3.5 GPA in his or her economics courses and write a paper that the faculty deemed meritorious enough for special honors. Not all submitted papers meet this standard; indeed, only about 48 percent of the submitted papers do. Therefore, although there were too many special honors graduates to list here, they are a distinguished, select group of young scholars.

Finally, the economics department congratulates all of our graduates on a job well done. We wish you the best in your future endeavors and hope you will remain in touch.

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Graduate Student News

Cheng Xu and Qian GuoEconomics department PhD students Qian Guo (right) and Cheng Xu (left) presented the paper "Is There an Inverse Relationship between Study Time and Final Exam Scores? Evidence from Principles of Economics" by Irene R. Foster, Qian Guo and Cheng Xu at the ASSA meetings in Boston on January 4th.

Meraj Allahrakha, MA ’10, was selected to receive a 2015 Phillip J Amsterdam Graduate Teaching Award, as part of the sweep of university and college prizes by the Department of Economics. He will be inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

After a year of visiting at Mary Washington College, Melanie Allwine, PhD ’14, has accepted a tenure-track position at Randolph-Macon College, near Richmond, Va.

Daniel Broxterman, MA ’09, has accepted a tenure track position at Florida State University.

Dr. Tony Castleman, MA ’05, PhD ’07, moved from being associate director of the Institute for International Economic Policy to take up a position as country head of Catholic Relief Services in New Delhi, India. He has had his hands full responding to many events in the area, including the earthquake in Nepal, but found time to finish a paper with James Foster and Stephen Castleman.

Olga Bespalova, Constantin Burgi, Ahsan Butt and Ali HassanA team of four PhD students of the GW Economics Department won the second prize at the Third Annual Crisis Game held by the National Association for Business Economics at Brandeis University on February 27. The team included Olga Bespalova (4th year), Constantin Burgi (3rd year), Ahsan Butt (3rd year) and Ali Hassan (3rd year). The team was also awarded a free registration for NABE Economic Policy Conference “Hard truths, difficult choices” held in Washington D.C., on March 8-10, 2015. Photo: (Left to right): Olga Bespalova, Constantin Burgi, Ahsan Butt and Ali Hassan.


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Faculty Honors

Herman SteklerHerman Stekler was honored for his contributions to economic forecasting in a special issue of The International Journal of Forecasting. The editor of the journal wrote this blog post honoring Professor Stekler. There is also a current fundraising initiative to rename the Research Program on Forecasting in his honor, details for which can be found here.

Economics Sweep University and College Awards Faculty

The Department of Economics swept the University and College Awards this year, with faculty members receiving the Trachtenberg Award for Service, the Bender Teaching Award, the inaugural Columbian Prize for Teaching and Mentoring Advanced Undergraduate Students and the first Graduate Faculty Mentoring Award. In addition, a Philip J. Amsterdam Graduate Teaching Assistant Award for Outstanding Teaching went to one of our doctoral students!

Joseph Cordes was awarded the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Faculty Prize for University Service. Professor Cordes has held many important services roles across GW, but his most important role for the past 15 years has been as a member and chair of the Faculty Senate Fiscal Planning and Budgeting Committee. In this role, he set the agenda for the committee to gather and analyze financial information from the most senior administrators at the university on behalf of the faculty for the purpose of understanding strategic plans, the university budget model and financing major capital projects. Both colleagues and university leaders have praised Professor Cordes for his judgment and skill in managing contentious meetings and getting to the bottom of difficult issues. They especially recognized him for his highly professional and thoughtful way of presenting complex information so that it can be understood by all.

Irene Foster was awarded one of four 2015 Morton A. Bender Teaching Awards, a university-wide honor that recognizes excellence in teaching. Dr. Foster was nominated by several students who noted her talents in the classroom and her guidance outside of the classroom. One noted that “In a class of almost 300 students, she would walk the room making eye contact with many students, asking questions and taking questions. It never felt like a large class. Outside the classroom she was amicable to meet with students and go over course content individually.” She was honored at the Faculty Honors Ceremony in the spring, and has been inducted into the GW Academy of Distinguished Teachers. This is the first ever Bender Award for the Department of Economics.

Tara Sinclair

Tara Sinclair was awarded GW's inaugural Columbian Prize for Teaching and Mentoring Advanced Undergraduate Students. The award is public recognition of the time, effort and energy that Professor Sinclair has put into teaching and mentoring the upper-level students in our department since coming to GW in 2005. In addition to being an outstanding teacher, Professor Sinclair has conducted research with undergraduates that has led to journal publications, and her mentoring has helped students receive a range of distinctions, from departmental honors to Luther Rice Fellowships.

Anthony Yezer is the first ever recipient of the newly created Graduate Faculty Mentoring Award. He served as the director for 10 dissertation committees for the 2014-2015 academic year, an accomplishment greatly respected by colleagues and students alike.

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Faculty Research and Teaching

James Foster was on sabbatical during the 2014-2015 academic year, in the chief economist’s office at the World Bank, in Oxford University and in several other locations. He concluded a grant on inclusive growth with the Asian Development Bank (reported in the IMF’s spring meeting) and worked on a grant from the Hewlett Foundation on the sustainable development goals and women’s empowerment. He traveled to Jordan, Finland, Saudi Arabia, England, Berlin, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, India, Poland and Italy, giving talks and advising governments. While at the World Bank, he gave a lunchtime presentation to a roomful of GW alums working at the bank and the fund. He also spent a week at the Census Bureau as a visiting scholar, working with Dr. Jon Rothbaum who joined the bureau after finishing his doctorate in economics at GW. Dr. Foster completed a book Multidimensional Poverty Measurement and Analysis (Oxford, forthcoming 2015) with Sabina Alkire and several colleagues at Oxford, and a paper with Stephen Smith and Tony Castleman on poverty that is forthcoming in a volume edited by Kaushik Basu and Joseph Stiglitz for Palgrave.

Remi Jedwab had a productive year presenting his research nationally and internationally, organizing several conferences, including one on economic history with George Mason, a second on development economics with Georgetown and a third with the World Bank on urbanization and poverty reduction. He also wrote a paper with doctoral student Marina Gindelsky on historical and present-day demographic transitions in urban centers. He also had several pieces accepted for publication this year including “The Value of Democracy: Evidence from Road Building in Kenya” (with R. Burgess, E. Miguel, A. Morjaria and G. Padro-i-Miguel) currently an NBER Working Paper and forthcoming in the American Economic Review; “The Permanent Economic Effects of Transportation Revolutions in Poor Countries: Evidence from Africa” (with A. Moradi) forthcoming in the Review of Economics and Statistics; and “Urbanization with and without Industrialization” (with D. Gollin and D. Vollrath), conditionally accepted at the Journal of Economic Growth.

Sumit Joshi is continuing his research in the area of economic and social networks. His paper, "Network Formation under Multiple Sources of Externalities", with A. Mahmud of Johns Hopkins University, is forthcoming in Journal of Public Economic Theory. His other recent papers on the subject are, "Sanctions in Networks: The Most Unkindest Cut of All" (with A. Mahmud), "Regional Shocks and the Formation of Interconnected Markets" (with A. Mahmud), "Risk-sharing in Federations: Theory and Evidence" (with A. Mahmud, S. Basher, and F. Balli) and "Multigraph Network Formation with Strategic Complementarities" (with A. Mahmud and S. Sarangi).

Mike Moore took his course on international trade theory and policy fully online with videos available on YouTube for all, and found that his students and people with a general interest in international trade have become enamored of his clear, concise explanations. His videos have garnered over 100,000 views, while his lectures on the Ricardian model and on Isoquants alone have over 50,000. Obviously Mike is having a major impact on the learning experiences of many people across the world. The videos can be found here.

Stephen C. Smith visited Uganda in connection with his USAID-funded BASIS research grant (with Professor Fishman); he served as host of BASIS’ Annual Technical Committee Meeting research workshop at GW last November 2014. Smith published Economic Development, 12th Edition, with M. Todaro, Addison-Wesley/Pearson (May 2014); “Do Foreign Owners Favor Short-Term Profit? Evidence from Germany,” with V. Dill and U, Jirjahn, in Cambridge Journal of Economics (pre-publication online, December 2014); and “US-China Economic Relations,” with Y. Pan, in Shenggen Fan et al, eds., The Oxford Companion to the Economics of China, Oxford University Press (December 2014). Smith continued as a Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow where he participated in the project, “Last Mile in Ending Extreme Poverty.” He also continues as an IZA Research Fellow.

Research by faculty members Fred Joutz, Tara Sinclair, and Herman Stekler was highlighted in “Why Experts Missed the Recession” by Jeff Madrick in the New York Review of Books. The article also included quotes from Tara Sinclair.

Fred Joutz has been on academic leave since August 2013 working as a Senior Research Fellow at King Abdullah Petroleum Sector Research Center (KAPSARC) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. KAPSARC is a new international energy economics and environmental research institute. He has been conducting research and building energy macroeconometric models and helping to set up the center. A major portion of his time has been spent on developing a research collaboration project in East Africa. There have been recent important discoveries of oil in Uganda and Kenya and natural gas in Tanzania and Mozambique. These discoveries provide opportunities and challenges for sustained economic growth and development. Government revenues in these low-income countries will be increasing dramatically. Policymakers will need to consider how to use those revenues for combating current poverty and investments in infrastructure, health and education for future productivity. This project is being conducted with partner institutes and ministries in those countries. He looks forward to returning to the economics department in fall 2015.

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The Economics Alumni Advisory Committee

The Economics Alumni Advisory Committee had a busy year during 2014. The committee helped the economics department organize the fall Lecture by Stephen Malpezzi, MA ’79. PhD ’86, professor of real estate at the Wisconsin School of Business and the spring Lecture by Sheila Bair, 19th chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Before both events, the committee led networking receptions for alumni and students and held committee meetings with GW faculty and alumni. This lecture series is co-sponsored by Marsh & McLennan Companies, the Department of Economics and Columbian College Alumni Programs.

Through the generosity of donors this year, the committee is happy to report the Economics Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund has reached over $100,000 in contributions. This fund provides annual scholarship support for graduate students pursuing an advance degree in economics. The committee would also like to thank those who supported the Professor Robert M. Dunn, Jr., Memorial Endowment Fund, which provides annual discretionary income to the Department of Economics at GW. The George Washington University Department of Economics continues to grow and prosper, thanks to the generous financial support of alumni and friends who recognize the value of investing in the future.

The committee would like to especially thank GW alumni Stuart Harshbarger, PhD ’94, Anne McGuirk, PhD ’89, Lily Uy Hale, PhD ’84, and Richard A. Brown, PhD ’94, for all of their hard work and dedication. The committee welcomes new members and advice from all economics alumni. Please contact the department for more information on how to get involved.

The department thanks Stuart Harshbarger for his years of dedicated service as chair of the committee and welcomes Richard Brown as the new committee chair.

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