May 8 was a very special day for our senior Economics majors. It began in Kenan Stadium with the University’s 2016 Commencement ceremony, and then continued with the Economics Department reception in the Global Education Center. As you can see in the picture, we packed the place. Economics is one of the most popular majors at UNC-CH. Each senior was announced by name and received a certificate of accomplishment (the actual diploma will be in the mail). The graduates waited on the balcony for their names to be called as parents, family and friends downstairs ate pimento sandwiches and Tar Heel cookies while awaiting their moment to cheer. Some cheers were louder than others, but every one was heart-felt. It was an excellent time and place to say goodbye to Chapel Hill. The faculty and staff of the Economics Department wish all our graduates well and urge them to stop in when you’re next at Carolina.
Among the many graduates, let me highlight just one. Michael Catalano, up there on the top floor awaiting his turn to be recognized, accomplished quite a bit in his time at Carolina. (He’s the smiling fellow in the picture to the right.) He won the Chancellor’s Award as outstanding Economics major. He also graduated with Highest Honors after writing a senior thesis entitled “The Impact of Public Smoking Bans on Tobacco Consumption Behavior and Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure in Argentina”. Working with his adviser, Professor Donna Gilleskie, he analyzed the impact of smoking bans in public spaces on smoker’s behavior and on the incidence of second-hand smoke. Mike visited Argentina and worked with local authorities and policy makers. He obtained data on smoking behavior of individual Argentinians over 10 years, documenting behavior in a time when provinces were implementing partial and full smoking bans in public spaces. He found that in Argentina full smoking bans reduced smoking prevalence, especially among younger demographic groups, but had no significant impact on intensity of smoking among smokers. Full bans also benefited nonsmokers, as the bans were associated with a significant reduction in environmental tobacco smoke exposure. Partial bans did not have these same effects, and in fact increased smoking intensity among individuals who smoke every day. He and Professor Gilleskie have submitted the findings from this research for consideration in a top field journal in health economics.
Mike plans to be a physician. To this end, he coupled his major in quantitative biology with the economics major. The economics training exposed him to theories of individual behavior and gave him tools for quantitative analysis: two pieces that will contribute to his success as a physician. Michael has been admitted to medical school but has deferred admission for one year to work in strategy consulting, with a strong interest in helping healthcare providers deliver more efficient and affordable care. Congratulations, Mike!