Department Newsletter, Spring 2020

Editor's Note: This newsletter was written prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting pandemic.

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Department Kudos
Class Notes
Donor Recognition

Message from the Chair


Stephen Smith, Department Chair





Dear Alumni and Friends of the GW Department of Economics,

Welcome to the 2019-2020 Academic Year Newsletter!

These newsletters allow us to feature the milestones of all our students and special achievements of faculty and alumni alike.

To begin, I’d like to thank Professor Sumit Joshi for his excellent leadership over his 4+ years of service as chair, and also, on a personal note, for his wonderful mentorship in getting up to speed for this multifaceted and sometimes complex job.

On behalf of the department, I would also like to express our gratitude to our alumni and friends whose generous donations have contributed to the success of our students and our academic programs.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible this year.

Stephen Smith

Department Chair

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Department Spotlights

The Great Successes of the PhD Economics Students


Current econ grad students joined by alumni, friends, family—and an adorable dog.
Our #GWU Student Association for Graduate Economists celebrated the great fall weather by hosting a barbecue outing at a local park. Current econ grad students were joined by alumni, friends, family—and an adorable dog.

The Department of Economics has a vibrant and highly successful PhD Program. We graduate an average of 10 PhD degrees per year; these degrees represent 10.4 percent of all CCAS research PhD programs. GW’s economics PhD tradition continued this past fall with 18 new students. Our entering class has impressive credentials and we are looking ahead to their research accomplishments.

All nine of our 2019 PhD students on the job market received highly attractive placements in tenure track and other prestigious research positions. We are pleased that six of our students received and are taking up solid tenure-track positions—four of them at well-ranked research universities in China, one at a top Indian economics department and one here in the United States at Pepperdine University. Another student received a prestigious World Bank Young Professionals appointment; and the final two received their placements in the financial economics field at Freddie Mac and at the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

The PhD students and their placements are:

  • Aaditya Dar:  Indian School of Business
  • Gao Chen: Capital University of Economics and Business
  • Xudong Guo: Shanghai University
  • Jozefina Kalaj: Pepperdine University
  • Amjad Khan: World Bank Young Professionals (YP) Program
  • Yan-Zhao Lai: SouthWest Jiao-Tong University
  • Tian Luan: Freddie Mac (Finance sector)
  • Haixiao Wu: Nanjing Audit University
  • Xiaohui Sharon Wu: Hong Kong Monetary Authority

Our PhD students were also successful in placing their research papers in well-regarded journals, and in some cases jointly with faculty. Working papers and publications by PhD students since 2017 are available on Google sheet maintained by the GW Student Association for Graduate Economics (SAGE).

Several of our current doctoral students and recent PhDs have been working with faculty on joint research projects. Among those who published recently are Ge Bao with Maggie Chen; Aaron Elrod with Arun Malik; Jozefina Kalaj with Stephen Smith; Xiaohan Ma with Roberto Samaniego; Andrea Lopez-Luzuriaga with Paul Carrillo and Arun Malik; Yao Pan with Stephen Smith; Jason Russ with Paul Carrillo and former colleague Ram Fishman, and Juliana Sun with Roberto Samaniego.

Professor Tony Yezer Recognized for Service to GW



GW President Thomas LeBlanc; Trachtenberg Faculty Prize winners Hugh Gusterson, Heather Berry and Anthony Yezer and Provost Forr
From left: GW President Thomas LeBlanc; Trachtenberg Faculty Prize winner Hugh Gusterson; Professor of International Business and International Affairs Heather Berry; Professor of Economics Tony Yezer; and Professor of Political Science Forrest Maltzman


Professor of Economics Tony Yezer was recognized at the ninth annual Faculty Honors Ceremony at the Jack Morton Auditorium, celebrating faculty members for their work in teaching, research and service to the university. Professor Yezer won the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prize for Service. Among his many contributions, Professor Yezer has also served on the Faculty Senate for many year and represents the Department of Economics at the Omicron Delta Epsilon (ODE) Economics Honor Society. The ceremony was covered in GWToday.

Professor Yezer’s service to both GW at large, and to the Department of Economics in particular have been far-ranging and spanned decades of important contributions. He was a member of two dean search committees. He has served an amazing five terms as CCAS Faculty Senate representative; as part of this he has been the chair of two Faculty Senate committees: the Research Committee and the Fiscal Planning and Budgeting Committee. Professor Yezer has also served on the CCAS Curriculum Committee, and as a member of the special committee on the Science and Engineering Hall. He was the author of the initial proposal for Stemworks.

At the Economics Department, Tony has been the ODE honor society faculty advisor for seven years. He is also the founder of the Careers in Economics sessions, and he coordinated subsequent improvements in the job placement process, including the current alumni mentor program. Professor Yezer helped the late Stuart Harshbarger to organize the Alumni Advisory Committee, and the Alumni Advisory Committee Lecture Series. Together with Professor Irene Forster, Tony developed the changed pattern of freshman instruction including testing and placement of students into the Principles of Mathematics for Economics course. Last but not least, he was the founder and director of the Center for Economic Research.

Welcome New Faculty

Elira Kuka
Elira Kuka
Alessandra Fenizia
Alessandra Fenizia


Yingyan Zhao
Yingyan Zhao

The Department of Economics is thrilled to welcome three new faculty to our team: Elira Kuka, Alessandra Fenizia and Yingyan Zhao.

Professor Kuka earned her PhD in economics from the University of California at Davis. Before coming to GW, she was an assistant professor of economics at Southern Methodist University. She has authored several articles in peer-reviewed journals including the American Economic Review, the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy and the Journal of Human Resources. Professor Kuka has been a Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Institute of Labor Economics in Germany. Her research specialties include public economics, labor economics, economics of education and health economics.

Professor Fenizia holds a PhD in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, where she was a graduate student instructor and research assistant. She has received an Institute for Research on Labor and Employment Fellowship and an Economics Department Fellowship, U.C. Berkeley. Her current research includes the health effects of Cesarean delivery and the economic ties between the Mafia and the Italian state.

Professor Zhao joined GW after completing her PhD at Pennsylvania State University. She is assistant professor of economics and international affairs. Her research interests are international trade and industrial organization with a market focus on information asymmetry in international trade and its policy implications.

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Department Kudos

Professor Barry Chiswick’s book, Jews at Work: Their Economic Progress in the American Labor Market, has been accepted for publication by Springer.

Professor of Economics and International Affairs Jay Shambaugh was featured in segments on C-SPAN in fall 2019. Professor Shambaugh is also the director of the Hamilton Project at The Brookings Institution.

Associate Professor of Economics and International Affairs Tara Sinclair gave her expert insight to Canada's Global News for a segment (pictured here) that aired in fall of 2019.



Professor Stephen C. Smith and Michael P Todaro recently published the 13th edition of Economic Development.


Book Cover: Economic Development by Michael P Todaro Stephen C. Smith



Professor Emeritus Charles Stewart published Discovery and Invention: A Comparative Study of Civilization. Ex Libris, 2019.

Class Notes

Earlene Baumunk-Cancila, BA 56, has been a docent at the Princeton University Art Museum for over 16 years.

Noel Clapp, BA ’15, is now working as an investment associate at Alternative Investment Management in New York City.

Monica Huddleston, BA 75, served two terms as mayor of the City of Greendale. She retired in 2000 from SWBT/SBC after 25 years of service.

Luther Liggett, BA 78, JD 81, is in his 39th year practicing government relations law in Ohio. He practices in all three branches of government including as a legislative lobbyist and as an active policy litigator.

Riki Matsumoto, BA 18, is currently in the two-to-three year RA Program at the International Monetary Fund, Fiscal Affairs Department.

Jean Montgomery, PhD 76, worked for the Montgomery County Government for 27 years, programming computers for the Department of Correction. He retired in 2003.

Cam Pippitt, AA ’59, BA ’62, MA 72, is a retired foreign service officer from the United States Agency for International Development living in Arlington, Va. He is a volunteer radio broadcaster of American classical music on Arlington's community radio station, WERA FM.

Bryan Pratt, BA, BS 13, is a research agricultural economist with the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Shamier Settle, BA 15, is conducting research as a state policy fellow with The Fiscal Policy Institute in New York City. Outside of analyzing the New York State budget and tax policies, she studies the positive impacts of immigration on the state economy.

Charles Stewart, BA 46, MA 48, PhD 54, was a professor of economics at GW from 1963 to 1992 after a few years in the United States Chamber of Commerce. He recently published a book, Discovery and Invention: A Comparative Study of Civilizations (Xlibris 2019).

David Tortorelli, BA 96, founded Tellenger, an IT consulting firm which made Inc. Magazine's 2019 list of “Fastest Growing Companies.” He recently stepped down as CEO to pursue new startup ideas.

Max Wang, BS 19, works in management consulting and started a new role as an energy, science and infrastructure consultant at Guidehouse, formerly PwC Public Sector.

Merve Willard, BA 10, became a CPA after graduation and is now working towards her ACCA degree. She works for a manufacturing company in Turkey as head of financial affairs.

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Donor Recognition


The Economics Department would like to gratefully acknowledge the following generous donors who made a gift to the department from July 1, 2018 - December 31, 2018.

+ Faculty/Staff | # Parent | ~ Student | * Friend | ^ Deceased

Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund

Independent Alumni Association for GW

Schwab Charitable Fund

Jeffrey Chaloupek, MBA, MA ’97

Thomas Curtis, BA ’81 MS ’95

Oscar David, BA ’84

Bernard Enriquez #

Jordan Frank, BS ’12

Robert Goldfarb +

Lily Hale, MA ’82, PhD ’84

Stuart Harshbarger, MA ’93, PhD ’94

Emily Kendrick *

John Kendrick +

Charles Luttmann #

Dennis Marvich, MPhil ’82

James McConnaughey, MA ’79

Chrysanthos Miliaras BA ’86

Judith Nadon #

Justin Pierce, BA ’01

George Plesko, BA ’80

Solomon Polachek, BA ’67

Bryan Pratt, BA ’13

Troy Quast, BS ’95

Dr. Clifford Reid, BA ’67

George Santopietro, BA ’78 #

Dr. Graciela Santopietro #

Dr. Tara Sinclair +

William Snow, Ph.D. BA 65, ’MA 70

James Starkey, MA ’72

Sharlan Starr, BA ’79

Beth Stekler *

Gregory Tassey, PhD ’78

Rosaria Troia, MA ’88, MBA ’96

Joseph Valenza, PhD ’78

Diana Wanamaker, BA ’66, MA ’71

Judith Wills, BA ’75, MA ’77

John Worth, BA ’91

Dr. Greg Zarelli, BA ’77

Alan  Zucker, BA ’84

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