Students explore career paths in economics during DivEc

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Students from across the region recently visited the Richmond Fed to participate in the bank’s fourth annual Diversified Economics Conference (DivEc) and learn about the many career paths an economics degree offers.

More than 85 people attended in person, and a few dozen more virtually, to hear from professors, other economists and several professional economists who have successful careers in the public and private sectors.

“Being able to listen to panelists and speakers from different backgrounds, with different interests, opinions and values, while still being under the umbrella of economics, was very refreshing,” said one student. Another participating student said, “I got to see the diversity in the field of economics, which was great. [Before the conference]I was confused about the career path I wanted to pursue, but I’m very inspired by the panelists, and now I have a clear idea where I want to go.

These conference attendees and others spent the morning touring the Bank and networking over lunch. The official program was launched in the early afternoon with a welcome from leaders of the University of Richmond School of Business and Virginia Commonwealth University. The two universities were the Bank’s co-hosts for the conference.

Miguel (Mickey) Quiñones, Dean of the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond, and Naomi Boyd, Dean of VCU’s Business School, detailed the relevance of economics to business and everyday life. “The field of economics is key to understanding some of the biggest challenges we face today,” Quiñones said. “If you think about climate change, social inequality, economic mobility, national security…. whatever interests you, the economy can help you make an impact.

Keynote speaker Dana M. Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board, shared similar sentiments, while encouraging students to stay curious, seek out mentors, and find sponsors in their future workplaces that can open doors. throughout their career path.

“Network and make sure you know people who can take you to the next level,” she said. “Also join economic groups. And then the last thing – a lot of us think, “I don’t know enough.” If you don’t know something, it’s okay to ask your network, people who are your sponsors, for help.

During a panel discussion moderated by Richmond Fed Research Director Kartik B. Athreya, students also received insights from economics professionals on how the tools of economics can be used. The panelists were Jevay Grooms, assistant professor in the Department of Economics at Howard University; Shakun Mago, professor of economics, and Joseph A. Jennings, chair of commerce, at the University of Richmond; and Faraz Usmani, applied microeconomist and researcher, at Mathematica.

Each of the panelists shared what led them to explore the field of economics.

Usmani recounted how a seminal 1988 article by Robert Lucas touched him as a student and inspired him to continue his studies in economics. In particular, Usmani referenced Lucas’ statement that “the human welfare consequences involved in issues like these [about economic development] are simply amazing: once you start thinking about it, it’s hard to think of anything else.

Grooms decided to change her path from law to economics when she realized that “economics can also be used to help solve social problems – it can be used to tackle inequality; it can be used to advance health care in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mago shared that she originally wanted to be a journalist, but her high school teacher showed her that what she was learning in their economics class directly related to the news she was reporting.

Students then had the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions that gave them exposure to economics-related career paths in the public sector, private sector, and the Federal Reserve, and an idea of ​​the options graduate studies that could strengthen their curriculum vitae.

“It was wonderful to engage with the students and watch their enthusiasm for pursuing a career in economics grow while listening to the speakers,” Athreya said. “The Richmond Fed wants to help welcome new voices into the economy so we can tackle some of our toughest challenges. The more diversity we have in the profession, the more we can do to foster understanding and positive change.

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