Spotlight on the Economics Department

Sara Solnick While the Great Recession of 2008 has created many hardships in the United States and abroad, it has also stimulated interest in the study of economics.  Perhaps as a result, the Department of Economics is vibrant and growing.  In the past five years, our number of majors has increased from 196 to 221 while the number of minors has more than doubled, from 98 to 237.  Students are drawn to the Economics Department for our exciting, relevant, and rigorous classes.  Faculty have the opportunity to teach courses related to their research interests, making the classroom a dynamic laboratory of learning, with a number of students going on to work with professors on their research projects.   In addition to the courses we offer at all levels of our discipline, we are pleased to participate in the Teacher-Advisor Program (TAP) with small seminars for students in their first semester on topics such as Latin American Development, Economics of Space, and Gender and the Economy.  We also contribute a course to the thriving Integrated Social Science Program (ISSP), in which a committed group of students takes five courses together in their first year, including one in Economics on Capitalism and Human Welfare.  We’ve expanded the curriculum in recent years with new classes on Advanced Microeconomic Theory, Computational Economics, Economic Data in Policy Analysis, Global Financial Crisis, Time Series Econometrics and, at the introductory level, Economics of Globalization. 

Students have had the chance to work on their own research projects and to assist faculty scholarly endeavors.  In particular, students were involved last year in Professor Ross Thomson’s research on technological change in the United States after the Civil War and Associate Professor Nathalie Mathieu-Bolh’s research on taxes and subsidies on food that may affect the rate of obesity.  Undergraduate theses in economics have explored a great diversity of topics, from “Minimum Wage and High School Disenrollment in Vermont” to “The Road to Diversification of the U.S. Chemical Industry: A Case Study of DuPont 1900-1945” to “A Re-examination of Inflation and Growth” to “Trust and Behavior in a Model of Financial Markets.”  In recent years, our graduates have enrolled in a variety of graduate and professional programs at institutions including University of California at Davis, Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University, Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Northeastern University Law School, and Boston University Law School. Others have found employment at places such as IBM, GE Capital, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the Clinton Foundation, the Vermont Department of Health, the Institute of International Finance, and Ithaca High School.

Faculty are doing research on topics of great current interest, such as diet and behavior, environmental regulation, and the quality of work.  Notable contributions are “Oligopolies, with (Somewhat) Environmentally Conscious Consumers,” (Journal of Economics and Management Strategy) by Assistant Professor Donna Ramirez-Harrington; “The ‘Twinkie Defense’: the relationship between carbonated non-diet soft drinks and violence perpetration among Boston high school students,” (Injury Prevention) by Associate Professor Sara Solnick; “What Do Revolving Door Laws Do?  Evidence from Public Utility Commissions,” (Journal of Law and Economics) by Associate Professor Marc Law; “Optimal Taxation and Borrowing Constraints,” (Economia) by Associate Professor Nathalie Mathieu-Bolh; “The Political Economy of Currency Boards: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” (South East European Journal of Economics and Business) by Associate Professor Shirley Gedeon; “Help or Hindrance?  Religion’s Impact on Gender Inequality in Attitudes and Outcomes,” (World Development) by Professor Stephanie Seguino; and “Flexibility for Whom?  Control Over Work Schedule Flexibility in the United States,” (Feminist Economics) by Associate Professor Elaine McCrate.  At the same time, we don't ignore the past and have well-published faculty doing work on economic history, such as “Did the Telegraph Lead Electrification?  Industry, Science and Innovation in the United States,” (Business and Economic History) by Professor Ross Thomson and “Military Conquest and Sovereign Debt: Chile, Peru and the London Bond Market 1876-1890,” (Cliometrica) by Associate Professors Catalina Vizcarra and Richard Sicotte.

The Economics faculty has spread its influence internationally and deepened its impact locally.  Here are some examples:

As you can see, this is a very rewarding time to study, teach, and learn economics at the University of Vermont.