Hello from Carolina! These are glorious days to be on campus. I suspect you remember fondly this time of year — leaves changing color, Homecoming football game, temperature dropping a bit, and of course the Carolina-blue sky. There’s a spring in everyone’s step, faculty and students alike, because there is just so much to do, see and experience. Some things never change!
And some things do change. I’m the new chair of the Department of Economics, succeeding Michael Salemi. Mike had a productive period in this position – be sure to thank him when next you see him – and I’ll work to maintain that productivity.
You’ll be impressed, in big things and small, by what our very creative students have done. We have undergraduates undertaking original research in India financed by Senior Undergraduate Research Fellowships. Our Entrepreneurship Minor facilitates undergraduate initiatives in North Carolina, New York City and Beijing. Our Econ Club hosted a faculty discussion of election choices for a campus-wide audience; the speakers managed to touch on more economic topics in an hour than the Presidential candidates managed in three debates! (For those worried about liberal bias in academia, not to fear – our panel turned out to be quite conservative on the issues.) Our graduate students are making new discoveries in fields as diverse as textbook sales, macro forecasting and national austerity policies.
Our faculty members, as you remember, are just flat-out excellent. When you return you’ll find many familiar faces. Professors Benavie, Wilde and Black have officially retired, but you still find them in the classroom – their love for teaching keeps them young! We’ve added two new faculty members this year: Professor Andrew Yates, an environmental economist, and Professor Toan Phan, an international macroeconomist. Next year, as well, we welcome back Professor Eric Renault. He left us briefly to teach in the Ivy League, but discovered that for him there’s nothing finer than Carolina. We are pleased to have these new and returning colleagues among us, and hope you’ll have a chance to meet them.
Success creates its own tensions. We currently have 1050 students who have declared Economics as their major; that puts us just behind Biology and Psychology among majors on campus, and first among the social sciences. Being popular is always gratifying, but our class sizes have been rising: we’re serving these students with fewer faculty and graduate TAs than we had in 1990 when we had half as many majors. Cozy classes have become a fond memory, but we could not see excluding anyone wishing to study economics.
Pop quiz: what are the two most important innovations in undergraduate education nationwide in the last 20 years? Hint: they both came from Carolina. The first is the Carolina Covenant, and we in Economics can’t take credit for that. The second is the Entrepreneurship Minor, and that has been our baby from the beginning. I can’t overstate the importance of that innovation to the many budding businesspeople and social entrepreneurs on campus. Students in the Minor are receiving a genuinely new, hands-on, model of undergraduate education, and we’re proud to facilitate that.
There’s much more happening at Carolina Economics, and I’d love to go on – but our newsletter editor has me on a short leash. Let me summarize in this way. The intellectual life at Carolina is vibrant, and the Economics Department is a major contributor to that. The innovations, the one-on-one coaching, the attention to each student, is creating the next generation of Carolina leaders. The state budget situation remains tight, and our funding for these innovations is largely derived from the contributions of our graduates and friends in the Carolina community. Entrepreneurship, the Fed Challenge, undergraduate research fellowships, grad-student travel – all are wonderful educational opportunities funded through private contributions. Should you be in a position to do so, I hope that you too will consider giving back to Carolina Economics. This next generation is bright and ambitious, and we want them to have the most inspiring education possible. Please partner with us in this.
Professor and Department Chair