Frontiers in Undergraduate Research 2022 at Storrs

Griffin O'Neill PosterGriffin O’Neill, a senior with a double major in Economics and Geography, presented a poster visualizing data on the topic of National Football League (NFL) Attendance and Anthem Protests in 2016.

Using the ArcGIS, software, Griffin plotted a base map representing the Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA) of each NFL stadium and the change in home game attendance between the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Then in separate maps he overlaid on the base map the number of player anthem protests for each team, the number of police shootings of unarmed black men in the SMSA of the home team, and voting results in the 2016 Presidential election in the counties comprising the SMSA of the home team.

The poster was part of an independent study project conducted with Prof. Oskar Harmon.

Professor Harmon Awarded AAUP Teaching Excellence Career Award

Professor Oskar Harmon has been awarded the 2022 Teaching Excellence: Career Award from the UConn-AAUP, one of only two recipients in the university. The recipients were chosen by the UConn-AAUP Excellence Awards Committee from a pool of excellent candidates.

The recognition of faculty teaching, research, and service excellence through UConn-AAUP awards began in 1997. The intention of the awards is to showcase academic excellence at UConn.

A virtual ZOOM ceremony to honor Professor Harmon, and other UConn-AAUP award recipients, will take place on Monday, April 25th at 12:00 noon.  Any and all who wish to attend are welcome, and are asked to email Barbara Kratochvil to receive the ZOOM link.


Catching up with UConn MSQE Alumnus Alex Gu and the NABE

Alex Gu picture

Launched in June 2020, the National Association of Business Economists (NABE) Scholars program expands on current NABE Foundation scholarship programs by providing scholarships to NABE conferences specifically to minority students and early-career economists to attend NABE conferences and events.

In its inaugural year, UConn’s Alex Gu was one of 20 selected scholars.

Alex recently graduated from UConn, earning his Master of Science in Quantitative Economics (MSQE) in December of 2021. We recently spoke with Alex to hear his reflections on the benefits of the program, his experience with the NABE conferences, and his advice for current (and potential) students.

We asked him: Why did you choose UConn?

“In high school, two of my most influential teachers were UConn Alumni. They encouraged me to check out UConn’s programs, and I knew I wanted to attend somewhere on the East Coast (having lived in Texas, California and China). I attended first as an undergrad, then decided to continue with MSQE program.”

Alex feels the MSQE program prepared him well, equipping him with tangible skills that he will be using regularly: Practice in coding with Python, R, and Stata; working with machine learning models; prediction models; and convex optimization. He credits Professor Oskar Harmon’s Writing and Communication for Economics and Business class, as well as UConn’s Career Center, for preparing him for the dozens of interviews he has been going on as he enters the job market. The MSQE program prepared me well for the technical questions, and the Career Center helped prepare me for the behavioral questions.”

Through the NABE Scholarship program, Alex was able to attend conferences in Washington D.C. that allowed him attend discussions with representatives from top companies on pressing current issues such as the supply chain, and the future of transportation. He enjoyed the opportunity to meet in-person, and make connections with leaders in the industry. “I realize how important networking is, as well as the importance of constant learning.”

Alex encourages current and potential students to use the resources UConn provides and to never stop practicing to keep your skills sharp. He intends to take the CBE exam in the coming months, and looks forward to taking the next steps in his career.

Check out these scholarship opportunities and more by visiting the NABE website here, and thank you Alex Gu for your enthusiasm and insight.

The 2022 NABE Scholar application process will open in late March/early April – stay tuned for details!

UConn students who are awarded a scholarship to attend a NABE event can apply to the MSQE Scholarship Program (contact Lisa Foss for details) to partially offset travel and lodging costs.

MSQE Alumni Panel on April 29, 2021

MSQE Program alumni Claudia Rodriguez (MSQE December 2019) and Jonathan Gonzalez (MSQE December 2019) participated in a virtual MSQE Alumni Networking Panel on April 29th.

Claudia currently works at Moody’s Investor Service, as a Structured Finance Associate Analyst, where she works on the Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities team, and the Collateralized Loan Obligations team.

Jonathan currently works for a Connecticut Non-Profit advocacy group.  He is currently providing data analytics research support for advocacy of Connecticut Senate Bill 842 An Act Concerning Health Insurance and Health Care in Connecticut.

They spoke highly of their MSQE training in Python, and R, the value of networking and recommended applying for summer internships.  In conversation about deadlines, it was mentioned that in industry meeting deadlines is crucial, not like class deadlines where professors’ give extensions.

The panel was moderated by Professor Harmon.

Professor Harmon receives CETL University Teaching Award

Oskar HarmonProfessor Oskar Harmon has been named a University Teaching Fellow by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning:

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning University Teaching Awards are held annually to honor faculty and graduate students who show exemplary commitment to their teaching craft. The winners of these awards are leaders in their disciplinary pedagogy, innovation, and have an unequaled focus on student success.

The recipients who win this award are representative of exemplary practice and service to the university. Their commitment to teaching, demonstrated knowledge of pedagogy, and an interest in fostering innovative teaching practices is unparalleled. This award identifies recognition of excellence in and out of the classroom by students, peers, and administrators.

Oskar Harmon is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics. He has taught at the university since 1994 and among many accolades, was the first faculty member to offer the “Principles of Economics” course in an online format in 2004. More information on Dr. Harmon can be found here.

Information about the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and the award, may be found online at:


MSQE Alumni Panel

Two alumni of the MSQE Program participated in a virtual MSQE Alumni Networking Panel on March 18th:

Louis Booth: MSQE Dec 2018

John Rolfe:  MSQE Dec 2019

Louis currently works at Travelers, as a Consultant Analytics and Research Development, where he is on the  Advanced Tools and Technologies Team.  John  currently works at Spreetail as a Demand Planner where he does demand forecasting.

They spoke highly of their MSQE training in Python, R, and Tableau, and gave several examples of how they use these skills in their current positions.

The panel was moderated by Professor Harmon.

Professors Harmon and Tomolonis Publish in Journal of Economic Education

JEE LogoOskar Harmon and Paul Tomolonis (UConn PhD 2017) have co-authored the article “Learning Tableau – A data visualization tool”, published in the Journal of Economic Education.

ABSTRACT: “Doing economics” is an important theme of undergraduate economics programs. Capstone courses increasingly include instruction in “data literacy” and the STEM-related skills of quantitative and empirical methods. Because the professional discipline has moved in this direction and because of greater employer demand for these skills, data visualization is a key component of data literacy. Tableau is a free data visualization software widely used in the data analytics industry. In this article, the authors introduce an exercise that teaches the fundamental Tableau concepts and commands needed to create charts, assemble them in a dashboard, and tell a story of patterns observed in the data. The exercise assumes no prior experience in Tableau and is appropriate for undergraduate upper-level economics courses or an empirical methods course.

The article is available at the JEE website

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/

Professor Harmon’s SSRN Working Paper on Data Visualization is Top 5 Downloaded Paper

The Social Science Research Network (SSRN), a platform for dissemination of early-stage research, recently announced their all-time top ten downloaded  papers in the topic Data Visualization.  Oskar Harmon’s paper “Learning Tableau: A Data Visualization Tool” with Steven Batt, and Paul Tomolonis was among that list.

“Doing economics” and “data literacy” are becoming important themes of undergraduate economics  programs.  This paper introduces an exercise that teaches the fundamental Tableau concepts and commands needed to create charts, assemble them in a dashboard, and tell a story of patterns observed in the data.  The exercise assumes no prior experience in Tableau and is appropriate for an undergraduate economics  capstone course or an empirical methods course.


Professors Harmon, Smirnova, and PhD Candidate Conant participate at Conference on Teaching and Research in Economic Education

Professors Harmon, Smirnova, and PhD Candidate Conant participated in the Ninth Annual AEA Conference on Teaching and Research in Economic Education (CTREE), in St. Louis, Missouri, May 2019.

Professors Oskar Harmon and Natalia Smirnova organized and moderated the panel “The College Fed Challenge: Discussion of Participating in an Existing Competition or Organizing a Competition in your Federal Reserve District”. The panelists were the faculty organizers of the regional Fed Challenge competitions in 4 of the 5 Fed Districts that sponsor a Fed Challenge competition, and the organizer of the finals round at the Fed Board of Governors in Washington DC. The discussion focused on two themes. One was a comparison of the similarities and differences in the structure of the competitions across regions and the effect on team outcomes in the national finals. Second was strategies to the geographic challenges and the difficulties facing the non-eastern states 8 reserve districts, only one of which competes (Chicago) relative to the 4 east coast districts, all of which compete.

Paul Conant and Oskar Harmon presented their paper “Teaching of Sports Economics by Reacting to the Past”. They presented a real-world scenario (RWS) assignment that is an adaptation of the “reacting to the past” teaching style. In this style students learn by taking on roles, informed by articles from the period of the event. They participate in a competitive game using the communication skills of speaking and writing, and analytical skills of critical thinking and problem solving. The specific RWS discussed in this paper will consist of students answering the historical event question: Should college athletes be allowed to unionize? The Case of Northwestern 2014. Students are assigned roles which can force them to combat their preconceived notion about the issue and help students consider different perspectives on the issue. We hope to merge the sociopolitical world with neoclassical economic learning in order to help students understand the nuance of pertinent world issues.

Natalia Smirnova also assumed an active role at the conference. She was a discussant of two papers. One paper presented the use of Excel for teaching students a Health Economics addiction model; and the second paper analyzed the reasons for female students’ attrition from the first Economics course they took and not becoming Economics majors at UC Berkley. Both papers were well received and generated debates among sessions’ participants.

Professor Smirnova extended her stay in St. Louis to explore Team-Based Learning (TBL) techniques. The TBL workshop was sponsored by the NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) initiative. Professor Smirnova is encouraged to bring new techniques into her classroom.