pconwayDear Friends:

You probably remember this time of year at Carolina. Your parents and friends were all holiday shopping and house-decorating, while you were attending classes and studying obsessively for your final exams. It’s rare for those in college to envy those not in college, but I’m sure it’s true in Chapel Hill at this time of year.

It’s my privilege to serve as Department Chair in Economics, and I can tell you that our students.whether undergraduate or graduate—continue to enjoy excellent opportunities to learn economic theory and to practice its applications to real-world events. (Translation—yes, they’re stressed, but they’re also learning a great deal.) The word is obviously out on campus: the number of students declaring Economics as a major rose again last year and has gone up by nearly 50 percent since 2012. The word is also out around the world, as we received over 400 graduate applications for 18 spaces in the first-year graduate class.

Why? I think it’s because our undergrads see that we’re innovating—we’re not standing pat with the course structures of the last century. Our instructors continue to lead in bringing activity to the large-enrollment classroom. Our joint degree program with the National University of Singapore provides creating learning opportunities in one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. Our Minor in Entrepreneurship challenges its students to describe their “big idea” to change the world—and then gives them the tools and space in order to put their big idea into action. Our prospective grad students see the quality and relevance of the research undertaken by our top-flight faculty, and can’t wait to join in.

This year, we are piloting three new undergraduate initiatives that you’ll find written up inside, and I hope you’ll have a look. The first is the credential in Quantitative Financial Economics that transforms our class offerings in the area. The second is a massive increase in sponsorship of experiential learning opportunities (internships, mentored individual research projects, financial support for senior-thesis research, and others) for out-of-classroom learning. The third is the “EconAid” center established to provide walk-in support to our students in our core classes. All build on the fundamental educational concept of “learning by doing”, and both take the concept in directions that deepen our undergraduates’ critical thinking capabilities. We have external funding to offer these for the next few years, and then we’ll assess. I’m impressed, though, with the possibilities for our students that these offer.

Let me use this space to give a shout-out to our many donors. Our enrollments are rising much more rapidly than faculty size, and this could lead to a less personalized learning experience for our students. The grants we win and the donations we receive make it possible to fund the “individual learning opportunities that are so critical to an understanding of economics. Thank you! If you’d like to join the donor group, please see the last page of this newsletter for options in giving.

We have a smorgasbord of news for you describing our students, our alums, our faculty and our donors. I hope that you’ll enjoy this taste of what we do. Should you wish to find more, or simply wish to read online, you can go to www.econ.unc.edu and click on “News.”

And, should you be in Chapel Hill, please stop by to visit.

Pat sig

Patrick Conway
Professor and Department Chair
Patrick_Conway@unc.edu