It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our colleague, Jorge Agüero. We mourn his loss, and extend our deepest sympathy to his family. Condolences may be shared online, and his obituary may be found here and below.
Jorge M. Agüero, 51, of Mansfield Center, CT passed away on May 7, 2023 due to complications from pancreatic cancer.
Jorge was Associate Professor of Economics and El Instituto at the University of Connecticut, where he has worked since 2013. He was also affiliated with the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) at the university as well as the Group of Development Analysis (GRADE) in Peru. Known in his fields for his keen eye towards recognizing quality research, he served as an editor of the Review of Economics of the Household and the South African Journal of Economics. He was a regular participant in National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) meetings.
A true scholar with a curious mind, Jorge was excited to talk about ideas with anyone answering interesting questions with data, but his passion was for research that would improve the lives of the disadvantaged in developing countries. He made incredible contributions in the areas of health, education, discrimination, and gender, focusing on timely topics with policy implications. During the pandemic, when so many turned to sourdough starters and Netflix, Jorge worried about how declines in economic activity would affect intimate partner violence in Peru and immediately went to work on this. He was widely published in top-tier economic journals such as the Journal of Human Resources, the Journal of Development Economics, and the AEA Papers and Proceedings. He received grants for his research from the United Nations Population Fund, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank in addition to numerous internal grants from the University of Connecticut. He thoroughly enjoyed presenting his work at conferences and seminars around the world, delivering keynote addresses at the 8th International Congress of Education in Colombia, the XI Meeting of Peruvian Students of Economics in Lima, and the VI Meeting of Mexican Students of Economics in Ciudad Juarez.
Jorge was renowned for his wise and caring mentorship of students and colleagues. Born in Lima, Peru, to a family of modest means, he was particularly passionate about mentoring individuals traditionally underrepresented in the field of economics, such as women and minorities. Most of his papers were coauthored with doctoral students and early-career scholars. He had a knack for taking a student’s rough idea, seeing its potential, and then working with the student to make it a solid piece of research. Jorge always asked tough questions in the spirit of trying to understand and make the work better, but was also the first to congratulate colleagues and students on successes big and small.
At the undergraduate level, Jorge taught a variety of courses in development economics and global health. He pushed all of his students to think deeply and critically; this devotion to quality teaching was recognized formally by the University of Connecticut and informally by the number of students calling him the “best professor I have ever had” on social media.
A selection of quotes from students and colleagues demonstrates Jorge’s passion and attention:
Jorge taught me how to love my work. He told me in my second year of Ph.D. — “you should always work on something that makes you get up in the morning and excited to start the day”. I have always had that in my mind as I have progressed through my career. -Pallavi Panda
He taught me panel data econometrics with uncommon humour. -Chijioke Nwosu
He brought wisdom and of fun in equal measure to his collaborations with colleagues at the UKZN School of Development Studies in the early 2000s. -Glen Robbins
Jorge, you have been a great and encouraging senior colleague, down to earth, insightful, and generous. Thank you for making the world, the profession, and the NBER rooms in Boston and beyond better: because of you, they were warmer, brighter, and smarter places. -Alex Eble
In addition to his academic work, Jorge was a passionate soccer fan, traveler, and food lover. He loved the Barcelona Football Club and his antipathy for Real Madrid will persist for all eternity. Jorge had special connections to his home country of Peru; to Spain, where he received his Master’s degree and returned this fall as a Visiting Professor; and to South Africa, where he conducted his dissertation research. His years were normally full of back-to-back travel. He seemed to always be eagerly looking forward to more journeys both personal and professional. He was a considerate and loving husband, a proud father, an esteemed colleague and a beloved friend. He brought laughter and a quick wit to any situation. He will be greatly missed.
Jorge is survived by his wife Michele Back, son Gabriel, and parents Jorge Jesús Marcelo and Gloria León. Jorge was predeceased by his brother, Rafael Antonio.
A celebration of his life will take place in the early fall at a date to be determined by the family.
We are delighted to share that three of our 5th-year PhD students focusing in econometrics, Xuejian Gong, Ruohan Huang, and Ziyun Wu, recently accepted (full-time) job offers in the US financial industry.
Xuejian has accepted a job offer as assistant vice president for wholesale credit risk management at Citi Institutional Clients Group. His dissertation (advised by Professor Duke Kao) is about applying distributionally robust optimization in economic and financial models. Ruohan has started her career at OneMain General Services Corporation as a senior analyst in credit, pricing, and analytics. The subject of her dissertation (advised by Professor Jungbin Hwang) is financial econometrics, focusing on empirical asset pricing models. Lastly, Ziyun has started work as a data scientist at Hartford Steam Boiler – Munich Re. Her dissertation (advised by Professor Duke Kao) studies the machine learning approach in asset pricing.
All three students commented that their programming language skills and understanding of various econometrics/statistical theories from their PhD training were key factors for their success in the job market. Also, they pointed out the importance of earlier preparations for the industry job market, as most companies for quantitative analyst positions have at least two rounds of interviews for coding and critical thinking.
We are again pleased to congratulate our PhD students’ achievements in their job markets and know that they will have great success in their careers in financial industries!
The Center for Career Development announced its first Faculty Fellow – Dr. Natalia Smirnova. As the Career Center continues to move toward its vision of ‘creating a university-wide career readiness culture that prepares all students for post-graduation success’, they have been extending their reach to partnering with faculty and staff more intentionally over the past several years.
Dr. Smirnova’s work on career readiness is closely aligned with the mission of the Center for Career Development and its Career Champions program. Professor Smirnova in her courses encourages students to build skills that are transferable to the workplace. With her co-authors, she developed an instructional module where students learn about their major and career path by using publicly available large data set. At the Stamford campus, she collaborates with various departments to arrange career panels, builds a network of business community leaders to mentor her students, and encourages students’ participation in various national economics competitions and conferences.
As the inaugural Career Faculty Fellow, Dr. Smirnova will be developing materials related to integration of career competencies into syllabi, serving as an ambassador to academic departments and faculty, and creating a sustainable program of faculty fellowship.
Economics undergraduate student Nidhi Nair has been featured in UConn Today as the university's first-ever recipient of the prestigious Schwarzman Scholar award.
Nair is an honors student double-majoring in economics and mathematics-statistics and was selected from more than 3,000 applicants to join a cohort of 150 other Schwarzman scholars from around the world in Beijing to complete a one-year master's degree. Recipients of this award are selected on the basis of leadership abilities and potential to bridge political and cultural differences.
Nidhi Nair founded last year's Invisible Hand Economics seminar series and is the president of the UConn Economics Society, as well as being involved in the Women and Minorities in Economics organization here at UConn. Nair has worked on multiple economics research projects here at UConn, and has completed several research and advocacy focused internships at different organizations.
Nair noted the support of her Honors advisor, Economics Professor Richard Langlois in her interview for UConn Today: "Dr. Langlois has also been a source of support and has provided invaluable advice on carving out a strong career in economics that advances my interests in socioeconomic mobility and microeconomic analysis."
Dr. Natalia Smirnova, Stamford “Practicum” instructor, argues that each competition is unique and encourages students to develop different skills that are valuable to their future career. This year, she added FDIC Academic Challenge as a complementary activity to the existing “Practicum” structure. The timing works perfectly: Fed Challenge is heavy at the beginning of the semester (submission in October), FDIC Challenge starts in November. The skills that students learn are complementary: the Fed Challenge focuses on the oral presentation skills and macroeconomic knowledge; the FDIC Challenge focuses on the writing skills (students write an analytical report) and microeconomic analysis. Both competitions have learning goals of data literacy, analytical, research skills, teamwork, and economic analysis.
The Stamford 2022 team consisted of seven students.
Alyssa Pelletier (Team Leader) is a Junior majoring in Financial Management at UConn. This is her second semester on the College Fed Challenge team. Her interests include finance and data analytics, utilizing demonstrated collaboration, organization, and problem-solving skills. In her free time, she enjoys dancing and beach trips. Through this competition, Alyssa learned how to analyze economic / financial conditions, to formulate monetary policy recommendations. She developed a better understanding of how different sectors / industries contribute to the decisions of the Fed. Alyssa selected the Technology sector, as she was interested in researching how technology is reshaping productivity and employment opportunities. She focused on digital transformation, and how the nature of work is changing as a result of technological advances. In this course, Alyssa had the opportunity to gain insight into an industry of interest, while developing career-valued skills like leadership, critical thinking, and teamwork. Here is the link to Alyssa’s reflection at the end of the course.
Briana Hardy is a second semester Junior majoring in economics and minoring in psychology at UConn Stamford. Growing up in Stamford, she planned on transferring to Storrs for her junior year. However, as for many other people, the pandemic disrupted her plans and she decided to take a gap year. During that gap year she worked full time to help her family who were directly impacted by the recession of the pandemic. During that gap year she worked for a local community bank as a teller and then was given the opportunity to learn the beginning processes of credit risk management as a paid intern. This caused her to become more interested in economics and banking. During her gap year she also worked at a grocery store and was able to see firsthand how the pandemic disrupted many sectors of the local economy and supply chain as well. During her free time Briana is learning to speak Spanish, she enjoys investing in the stock market, and she loves to travel. After she completes her undergraduate degree, she plans on working in the banking industry. After obtaining some work experience, she wants to go back to school to obtain a graduate degree. For the College Fed Challenge, Briana decided to look further into the supply chain because of her firsthand experience in seeing how incidences outside of the financial world are, in fact, interconnected in our economy. Here is the link to Briana’s reflection at the end of the course.
Robert Martin is a current second semester Senior at UConn Stamford majoring in General Studies with a focus in Economics. He transferred to UConn his Junior year after attending Saint Joseph’s University where he majored in Business Intelligence and Analytics. He opted to switch to General studies at UConn to learn a wide variety of courses including economics, psychology, and communications to help him more in the wine industry. During his free time Robert enjoys golfing, going to the gym, and trying out new restaurants. After he completes his undergraduate in December 2022, he plans on working in the wine industry to continue to grow his wine knowledge. Throughout this challenge Robert selected the housing sector, to get a better understanding how the housing market affected the general economy and showed the growth and trends within the industry. Here is the link to Robert’s reflection at the end of the course.
James McQuade is a Senior at UConn, majoring in Economics. This is his first semester as a Practicum team member and his second semester taking coursework in monetary policy. James is interested in pursuing a career in analytics, most likely in financial services. However, he is open to opportunities in other fields conducting economic or financial analysis, i.e., credit analysis, insurance analysis, healthcare analysis, etc. He completed a summer internship in the Wealth Management department at Raymond James Financial Inc. under the Vice President of Investments in Westport, CT. He has utilized his aptitude for critical thinking as well as his knowledge of economic and financial markets to conduct research regarding the effects of commodity prices on macroeconomic forces including production costs and consumption. As the needs of team changed, he has also conducted research regarding consumer sentiment and its possible implications on the Fed’s policy to maintain price stability. He looks forward to getting more experience in analysis after graduation and hopes to find an opportunity to pursue a Master of Science in Finance or an MBA in the near future. He is also considering work on the Chartered Financial Analyst designation post-graduation. Outside of academics, James has a passion for singing, and spending time with family and friends. Here is the link to James’s reflection at the end of the course.
Jonathan Portanova is a Senior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Economics. His interest is to go into public policy and research developments in the private and public sectors. Being on the Fed College Challenge Team gave Jonathan a great opportunity to do research on the economy and learn new sources of information. Jonathan is also a community leader and has volunteered in his time in the community as members of organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, the Alzheimer Association, and on Campus. Being a part of two Honor Societies Delta Alpha Pi and Phi Theta Kappa, Jonathan enjoys spending time with family and friends, meeting new people, and going out. Here is the link to Jonathan’s reflection at the end of the course.
Anthony Santiago, “Santi” is a UConn Stamford Senior. Santi was originally a member of the class of 2020 but when the COVID-19 pandemic began, he took some time off from school to pursue a career as a plumber. After establishing himself locally in the trade industry, he decided that it was time to reenter the classroom and complete his degree. After leaving his company in January of 2022, he will graduate this December through UConn’s Continuing Studies program with a bachelor’s degree in General Studies, where most of his classes are of a business background. He is planning on trading his work boots for a suit and tie following the completion of his degree and hopes to find a finance opportunity in the NYC area early in 2023. Here is the link to Anthony’s reflection at the end of the course.
Neel Talati is a Senior majoring in Economics at UConn. This is his first semester participating in the College Fed Challenge team. Neel’s interests include stock trading, technical analysis, creating leadership opportunities and analytical thinking. In his free time, Neel likes to travel and go outdoors to play various sports like soccer and basketball. At the beginning of this competition, he has been able to demonstrate knowledge and skills to analyze economic climate forecasts and correlate them to monetary policy. He has been able to collaborate with his peers to help in all sectors of the Fed challenge. Throughout the course, he has been able to gain experience and insight to help prepare for the next semester fed challenge. Here is the link to Neel’s reflection at the end of the course.
Team’s video submission for the College Fed Challenge competition did not advance to the second round. But students kept pushing forward and worked hard on the next challenge. The written report analyzing profitability of banks in Fairfield County was submitted to the FDIC Challenge, and we are awaiting the results of the first round to be available in February.
Each student acknowledged that through the “Practicum” course they developed and refined a lot of career-transferrable skills such as critical thinking, analytical, and presentation skills in addition to teamwork and collaborative competitive spirit.
Beginning in Fall 2023 semester, the Masters of Science in Quantitative Economics (MSQE) degree will be offered at the Stamford Campus.
The MSQE is a 30- credit (10 courses) program. Average completion time for full-time students is three semesters. We also offer an accelerated program for current UConn undergraduate students who wish to pursue a combined Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Science (MS) in quantitative economics. Students can simultaneously earn a Certified Business Economist® (CBE) professional certification.MSQE teaches marketable skills in economic decision-making, statistics, data analysis, data visualization, and machine learning. Students learn relevant software and programming languages, like Python, R, and Stata. This program will help alumni pursue successful careers as financial and data analysts, ML engineers, data scientists, and programmer analysts with top employers in Connecticut and beyond.
To request more information about the MSQE Program click here.
With support from the Art Wright Seminar Fund, Dr. Dong Hwan Oh, a senior economist and quantitative risk analyst at the Division of Reserve Bank Operations and Payment Systems of Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, spoke at the departmental Econometrics Seminar on Friday, October 7th.
Dr. Oh’s research focuses on analyzing financial markets and risk, as well as methodological development of forecasting and quantitative finance models. During this event, Dr. Oh presented his recent research paper, “Better the Devil You Know: Improved Forecasts from Imperfect Models”. The research paper proposes a new theory and empirical approach for improving the forecasting of financial and macroeconomic variables such as stock volatility, risk, and yield curve of the interest rates. The views expressed in this research are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Board.
PhD students, MSQE students from advanced econometrics and programming classes, and a focused group of undergraduates were invited to participate in the seminar. At the beginning of the talk, Dr. Oh recommended that students invest in quantitative data skills on the foundation of econometrics, which can give them great returns when they apply to research assistant/internship positions in the Federal Reserve and other financial institution. Also, through this opportunity, the faculty in the econometrics group were able to actively interact with an expert in financial market analysis, which can help them advise those students with career goals in financial industries.
Professor Nishith Prakash has been named an Associate Editor with the Journal of Development Economics, which publishes “original research papers relating to all aspects of economic development – from immediate policy concerns to structural problems of underdevelopment.”
Information about the Journal, and about the Editorial Board, may be found online at: