Faculty activities

Stamford Team Competes in the College Fed Challenge 2020

This year, the College Fed Challenge competition was virtual. It was a challenging transition to understand the intricacies of new rules and regulations and to pivot in September to be ready by October 9. But the UConn-Stamford team was well-organized, enthusiastic, and well-prepared to put forward the arguments that the current economic situation warrants keeping the target federal funds rate unchanged.

The 2020 team consisted of five Stamford students: Cullen Murphy (ACES, sophomore), You Kim (Financial Management and Economics, senior), Shayla Siljkovic (Linguistics and Philosophy, sophomore), Eileen Zhu (Economics, junior), and Rashana Weerasinghe (Business Data Analytics, sophomore). They worked virtually; very diligently, creatively, and collaboratively. They describe the challenges of this new environment as the loss of a camaraderie of in-person interactions, technical difficulties, and physical isolation. However, the presentation that they put forward combines the intellectual rigor of each member, deep research of economic indicators, and a collective vision of what the forecast of current economic conditions looks like.

You can watch their presentation here.

Our team did not make the next round of the competition this year, which is, of course, disappointing. However, the learning that has occurred was a worthwhile experience. First, each student has developed an expertise in a selected economic indicator or industry: each team member researched, constructed graphs, and made connections with overall economic development as well as with monetary policy implications. Furthermore, students gained highly valuable skills such as critical thinking and teamwork. These are the skills that are transferable to other professional environments such as a graduate school or a workplace.

You can read the students’ reflections here:

Cullen Murphy – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

You Kim – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

Shayla Siljkovic – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

Rashana Weerasinghe – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

Eileen Zhu – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

The course that will be used to prepare a team for the next year’s competition is ECON 3492 – Practicum. It is offered every semester. Stamford students who are interested in joining the team should contact Dr. Smirnova. The student’s major does not matter – all majors are welcome! What matters is the desire to learn about the economy and monetary policy, and to be open-minded to work well in a team.

 

Early College Experience Economics Workshop

Every year, the Economics Department hosts the professional development workshop for high school teachers of economics who are part of the UConn Early College Experience (ECE) Program. This program provides opportunities for high school students to take a UCONN course for credit at their high school. The teachers who offer such a course attend the annual workshop and are certified by the Department. Dr. Smirnova is a new coordinator for the ECE Economics program.

On Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 29 teachers from all over the State of Connecticut attended a virtual professional development workshop organized by Dr. Smirnova, the Department of Economics, and the Office of Early College Programs. The agenda was packed with useful and up-to-date information that could be used in the classroom right away.

Dr. Diego Mendez-Carbajo, Senior Economic Education Specialist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis presented a talk “Remote Active Learning with FRED Interactives”, which demonstrated new approaches of using the FRED database for teaching various topics.

Dr. Scott A. Wolla, Economic Education Coordinator at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis talked about “Teaching New Tools of Monetary Policy”, which presented the up-to-date information about monetary policy tools that have changed substantially in the past couple of years and especially since August 20202. Dr. Wolla showed various resources that could be used in teaching and studying Macroeconomics and Money and Banking.

Dr. Carlos J. Asarta, Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware presented his new research “Teaching Digitally-Minded Students during the Pandemic and Beyond”. The data collected by Dr. Asarta indicates that the profession has not yet successfully pivoted to using engaging strategies in teaching and, therefore, there are challenges in recruiting and retaining economics majors. Dr. Asarta suggested several ways of making economics more interesting, more applied, and more fun for contemporary students.

The feedback from teachers was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone learned a lot and took away many resources to be used in the classroom.

By Natalia V. Smirnova

Professor Ross on Panel on the Economic Recovery of CT from the Pandemic

Professor Stephen Ross recently took part in a panel discussion about the economic recovery from the pandemic in Connecticut:

Bouncing Forward from the Pandemic: Economic Disparities, School, Childcare, and Residential Integration

Thursday, October 15, 2020, 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm

Moderator: Beth Bye, Commissioner, Office of Early Childhood

State of the State on Economic Disparities: Dr. Stephen Ross, UConn Departments of Economics and Public Policy

Residential Zoning Reform: Dr. Saud Anwar, State Senator

Addressing Challenges Faced by the Working Poor : Dr. Lauren Ruth, Research & Policy Director, ConnecticutVoices for Children

High Potential Programs to Boost High School Students to a Family Living Wage: Dr. Lyle Wray, ExecutiveDirector, CRCOG

The panel was recorded and is available to view online at:

https://kaltura.uconn.edu/media/October+15%2C2020+Bounce+ForwardA+Bouncing+Forward+from+the+PandemicA+Economic+Disparities%2C+School%2C+Childcare%2C+and+Residential+Integration/1_3tm63n59

Professor Ross Chairs UEA Student Prize Committee

Professor Ross chaired the Student Prize Committee for the 2020 Virtual Urban Economics Association Meetings.  To see the prize winners and the full prize committee, go to:

http://www.urbaneconomics.org/meetings/awards.html

For the actual papers, see the conference program at:

http://www.urbaneconomics.org/meetings/virtual2020/program.html

MSQE Student Tracking Pandemic featured in UConn Today

MSQE student Yuansun (Sonny) Jiang’s COVID-19 Connecticut Data Visualization website has been featured in UConn Today: 

UConn Student Tracks Pandemic With Data

Using the skills he was learning in Prof. Oskar Harmon’s Writing and Communication for Economics and Business graduate course, Jiang began assembling the COVID-19 Connecticut Data Visualization website, where he daily charts the pandemic’s course both here in Connecticut and across the country.”

 

Read the full article at https://today.uconn.edu/2020/04/uconn-student-tracks-pandemic-data

Information about the MSQE Program may be found online at https://msqe.econ.uconn.edu/

Women in Economics Symposium

On February 27, 2020, two Economics students from the Storrs campus (Daija Brunson and Pershae Gilling) and one Economics student from the Stamford campus (Viviana Castillo) got the chance to travel to Cleveland, OH, for a Women in Economics Symposium. In the morning of the event the students got the chance to meet Research Assistants for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and ask them questions about their journey so far. A lot of insight was given by the Research Assistants and they were very helpful in providing guidance to the students about what they should do in the future.

The students also got the chance to tour the bank and they were even able to go down to the cash processing center where they could see how automation plays a big role in their daily processes.

The symposium was held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and included keynote addresses from Dr. Lisa Cook, Director of the AEA Summer Program and Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Founder of Economic Education Institute. In addition, during the symposium the students got the chance to sit through different discussion panels with topics about what to do with a degree in economics, how to get a PHD, and how to navigate the workforce as a female.

During the reception they got a chance to meet other students and employees from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, including Dr. Loretta Mester, the President and CEO of the bank. Overall, the full day was filled with a lot of information and it provided the students with a lot of guidance as to what they should do in the future. The students came back feeling very energized and excited as to what the future holds for them.

 

Written by Viviana Castillo and Dr. Natalia Smirnova

Women and Girls’ Day at the Capitol 2020

On March 6, 2020, Dr. Natalia Smirnova and Dr. Tianxu Chen represented the Economics Department at the “Women and Girls’ Day at the Capitol 2020” cohosted by The Governor’s Council on Women and Girls, The Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity; and The Women’s Suffrage Commission.

The theme for the event was CELEBRATE – CONNECT – INSPIRE:

To CELEBRATE the progress made by women in honor of Women’s History Month and the 100 Year Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage.

To CONNECT the state community to resources and opportunities that are available to the public, such as:

  • Career information.
  • Health & safety services and information.
  • Women leaders in STEAM and underrepresented fields — hence Economics!
  • Resources for women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.

To INSPIRE women and girls to design their own paths (providing a broad scope of role models for them to become inspired).

The intended audience for the day was female high school juniors and seniors, and women from across Connecticut. A total of 300 individuals attended, with half of them being high school aged girls. Both Dr. Smirnova and Dr. Chen were excited to share their love of economics with the attendees. The event was worthwhile for everyone!

Professor Kim presented at Yale

Professor Min Seong Kim presented his work in the econometrics seminar in the Department of Economics at Yale on March 4th. The title of his presentation was “Bootstrap Inference under Cross Sectional Dependence” (joint with Timothy Conley, Silvia Goncalves and Benoit Perron).

Professor Kim is visiting the Economics Department and the Cowles Foundation Econometrics Program at Yale as a visiting associate professor in Spring 2020.

Early College Experience Economics Workshop

The Early College Experience Economics program (https://ece.uconn.edu/) held its annual workshop this fall for 30 Connecticut high school economics teachers who are teaching UConn’s Principles of Microeconomics (ECON 1201), Principles of Macroeconomics (ECON 1202) and/or Essentials of Economics (ECON 1000).

Early College Experience Workshop Presentation with Shor

Leading off the workshop was Professor Mike Shor, presenting “Patent Holdup” in which he explained the limits monopoly power conveyed by patents. The complementary relationships among patents and the price determination of purchasing or licensing of patents. He went on to explain the idea of the patent hold up.  He also provided the workshop participants with a classroom exercise in which students discover how patents are priced.

Early College Experience Workshop Presentation with Smirnova

There followed a presentation by Professor Natalia Smirnova, “Using Data in the Classroom: FRED database.” Professor Smirnova demonstrated several empirical uses of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank’s FRED database including both Macro and Micro economic examples.

Professor William Alpert presented a lunch time talk about the “Perils and Pitfalls of Prediction” highlighting the famine predictions of Paul Ehrlich for the 1980 (100’s of millions die) and the failed predictions of The Club of Rome from 1973. Professor Alpert also “predicted” the rise to more than 600 million in the number of horses in the United States if 18th Century trends had continued, assuming no alternative means of transportation.

Early College Experience Workshop Presentation with Alpert

Professor Steven Lanza then followed up with a presentation entitled “Rediscovering Lost Arts: Economic Index Numbers” in which he stressed the importance of index numbers and the biases in those numbers.  He also demonstrated how to calculate them using data that is easy to access and readily available.

Professor Nishith Prakash rendered the concluding presentation concerning a natural experiment concerning the harassment.  In India 79% of women living in cities have experienced harassment in public spaces.  Professor Prakash and his coauthors set out to determine the effect of street patrolling that targets harassment, on the type and frequency of incidents and women’s proactive responses.  They also are trying to determine the impacts of targeting perpetrators of harassment and what drives these changes — visibility, and/or quantity of a focused taskforce?

All of the presentations were well received and the workshop was among the most successful offered by the ECE Economics program.