It is a rare occasion when a Writing-Intensive Economics class is visited by a professional writer. This is what the English classes usually can offer. It is even rarer when a professional writer is actually an Economics major.
Mrs. Anne McAuley Lopez, CLAS ’96, graduated from UConn-Stamford with an Economics degree and went on to a career in the banking and data-related fields, but her heart was in the research and writing aspect of the business. With one twist in her career, she decided to do what her heart desires – set up a writing consulting firm and help businesses to create content which is appealing to their clients. The mix of economics knowledge and the knack for presenting information in a concise and engaging way jolt her firm Agency Content Writer to success.
Now, Mrs. Lopez is giving back to UConn by participating in various career and alumni events. She is collaborating with Professor Smirnova on the writing-intensive course ECON 3431 W Public Economics. During the pandemic, Mrs. Lopez recorded several motivational videos that Dr. Smirnova embedded in the course on HuskyCT. This semester, though, Mrs. Lopez was able to come to ECON 3431W in person on April 13, 2023.
The students were able to ask questions about the place of writing skills in their future career. Mrs. Lopez explained that in any career path, communication competency (written and verbal communication skills) play a very important role. She also gave motivational advice to students regarding their current peer-review class assignment. She described the role of an editor and a publisher who use the same constructive criticism approach when evaluating papers, essays, and books for publication.
Students were excited for the opportunity to connect with the UConn-Stamford alumna who is generously giving her time and expertise to help them with their writing … and with their Economics career readiness.
We thank Mrs. Anne McAuley Lopez for her continuous interest in and the support of our students.
Stamford students in ECON 3431W Public Economics class were treated for a special visit from the UConn alumna, Ms. Katherine Bradbury, who is Director for International Economics and Competitiveness program of the National Security Council at the White House.
As the curriculum of the Public Economics course, taught by Professor Smirnova, includes such topics as Fiscal Federalism, and State and Local Government Finance, a visit from the White House staff seems like an excellent fit. Working with the Center for Career Development in Stamford and UConn Alumni Office, we were able to secure Katherine Bradbury’s virtual visit to this class on April 6, 2023.
Our discussion went much deeper than the curriculum topics, however. Students shifted it into the realm of career readiness and skills that are essential for a public sector job.
Ms. Bradbury talked about the importance of being a competent person, no matter what major you are pursuing in college. She shared her strive to be a well-rounded professional, the foundation of which was set by the liberal arts education she has gotten at UConn. At the White House, she said, the main trait is the ability to maintain composure under stress and the ability to critically think about a situation at hand.
Students understood that internships and extra-curricular activities will help them show a unique set of skills and experiences that they can leverage at a job interview. They were fascinated with Katherine’s story about taking the photograph with Mr. Joe Biden and the high-level description of what she does at the White House.
Such visits by alumni are very important for students’ career and self-development as well as growth in professionalism. The interactions with alumni open their eyes on various career paths that could be pursued with their major.
We thank Ms. Katherine Bradbury for the time she carved out for us and for her inspirational conversation with students.
Stamford students in ECON 2411 “Money and Banking” class taught by Dr. Smirnova were treated to a special guest visit on February 14, 2023. UConn Stamford Economics alumna, Viviana Castillo, CLAS ’20, who is Principal Finance Analyst at GlobalFoundries shared her wisdom about building knowledge base and career-relevant skills while in college, about finding a job upon graduation, about graduate school, and about current job market in the intersection of economics, finance, and tech.
While at UConn Stamford, Viviana worked in the banking industry, but she managed her time well, which allowed her to participate in the College Fed Challenge competition in 2019 as Stamford team member. She graduated in the midst of the pandemic in the Spring 2020, but did not slow down and entered graduate school at Columbia University. She continued working in the banking industry, gaining experience. After graduating with a Masters in Risk Management degree, she moved to a more interesting job in FinTech.
Viviana Castillo shared with students her approach to gaining new skills in order to prepare for demands of ever-evolving job market. She encouraged students to become career ready. In addition to content knowledge in their academic fields, students need to develop career competencies that are in high demand in the workplace, such as critical thinking, communication, and professionalism.
Students asked a lot of questions, shared their anxieties, and were grateful for Viviana’s effort to meet with them. Business leaders’ and young alumni’s visits to ongoing classes are an exciting way to connect our students to the world outside the academy and prepare them for careers upon graduation.
On February 23, 2023, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis hosted the annual Women in Economics Symposium. This year the theme was “Role Models Matter”. The agenda included notable women-economists, who shared their love of economics, their research, and their wisdom about how to build and navigate a career path in economics.
The symposium was held in a hybrid format, in which the in-person conference in St. Louis was combined with Watch Parties across the country. Professor Natalia Smirnova arranged for the Economics Department to hold two Watch Parties, in Storrs and in Stamford.
In Stamford, the symposium was designated as the Honors Program event, and they provided pizza and other snacks. Honors Program Assistant Director, Ms. Heenehan, helped with all the logistics during the preparation stage. Economics Professor, Dr. Patricia Ritter hosted the event. Nearly 20 students from political science, economics, and business attended the symposium. We thank Political Science Professor, Dr. Ginsberg for promoting the conference in her classes.
In Storrs, the organization of the Watch Party was done by Women and Minorities in Economics Club. This Club’s activities include speaker series and various events focusing on promoting fruitful discussion about women and minorities’ issues among Economics majors.
At the 2023 Women in Economics Symposium, students heard from exciting role models with fascinating careers in economics while also learning some practical tips about job searching, finding a mentor, and more. As we aspire to develop in our students the career readiness competencies, an exposure to national leaders in economics profession allows students to navigate career opportunities, network to build relationships, and clearly and effectively exchange information and perspectives with persons inside and outside of their home campus. These skills are transferable to students’ post-graduation career and will help them showcase their professionalism during job search and interview processes.
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.
Kyle Richter graduated from UConn-Stamford in December 2021 and is currently an Investment Banking Associate at Capital Research Partners & Co., a boutique investment bank in Norwalk, CT that specializes in restructuring, capital raising, and mergers & acquisitions. The Center for Career Development at Stamford and Dr. Smirnova worked together to arrange Kyle’s visit to ECON 3413 — Financial Economics class on December 6, 2022.
The class started with students’ presentations of financial analysis reports that they completed during the semester. The assignment was to select a publicly traded company, obtain a series of financial reports, analyze financials statements and ratios, and apply one of the methods of stock valuation that were covered in the course. Students wrote a short report justifying their “buy/sell” recommendation and were defending their findings via oral presentation. Kyle was able to assess students’ work and ask clarifying questions.
Kyle took Financial Economics in the Spring of 2021 and was happy to share with students how he uses what he learned in this class every day at work. He talked about uses of financial statements, benchmarking, and trend analyses for valuation of companies and M&A deals. He explained the differences in structure and culture between small firms and large corporations.
Students engaged in a productive discussion with Kyle. They asked questions pertaining to job search after graduation and about careers in finance. Kyle shared his story of job search and his ambitions for the future. He suggested using this class’s report as a showcase of financial industry skills during the interview process at any financial firm. Understanding of nasic financial concepts, concise writing, and presentation skills are essential for getting a job in finance.
After the Financial Economics class, Kyle Richter met with students in ECON 3492 – Practicum class. This is a special course where Stamford team participates in national competitions. Here, the discussion with students focused on careers, career competencies, and networking. Kyle offered his help in giving feedback on students’ resumes and in mentoring students as they navigate job search and connections with professional networks.
Overall, the visit was very productive and interesting. We thank Kyle Richter for coming to our campus, mentoring our students, and engaging with the University.
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.
Connecticut high school teachers who are certified instructors with the UConn Early College Experience (ECE) – Economics program gathered (virtually) on October 26, 2022, for an annual professional development workshop. The Economics Department sees these instructors as our colleagues and values their participation in the University mission. We see our relationship with the high school partners as important for the academic discipline and for developing Economics major and minor at UConn.
Professor Smirnova is faculty liaison for the ECE-Economics program. In this role, she oversees the course comparability, academic oversight, and professional development of the ECE instructors teaching ECON 1000, ECON 1201, ECON 1202 in their high schools.
The October workshop is an annual professional development opportunity. The goal is to share pedagogical innovations in the economics field in order to keep instructors informed and energized in delivering engaging classes to their pupils.
The workshop was opened with a dynamic presentation “5 Key Economic Concepts that Popular Media Can Teach” delivered by Dr. Kim Holder, Director, UWG Center for Economic Education and Financial Literacy, Senior Lecturer of Economics, Richards College of Business, Director of Financial Literacy, University of West Georgia (UWG).
In the next presentation “Building Human Capital – College and Career Exploration”, Princeton Williams, Senior Outreach Advisor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, introduced teachers to Navigate, a portal that helps students navigate college application process and focus on selection of their future academic major and subsequent career. Instructors were excited to learn about several lesson plans and classroom-use-ready materials available for teachers through this site.
Intriguing presentation “4 Tools to Make Your Teaching Stick” was delivered by Matt Hill, Curriculum Designer at the Marginal Revolution University. ECE instructors were engaged in several exercises helping them experience the interactivity of the tools suggested by Matt.
The final presentation “The Vibrant History of Black-Owned Banks” was given by Tim Todd, Executive Writer and Historian of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. As the author of two books on bank ownership, which are written as a historical reference on Black community banks, Tim showed photographs related to his research and invited ECE instructors to download the books for classroom use. Instructors can also request hard copies of the books for their classroom use for free.
28 ECE Economics instructors attended the workshop.
ECON 3413 Financial Economics course at Stamford, taught by Dr. Smirnova, challenges students to apply financial concepts to business problems. In addition to following the textbook exposition of the material, students select a publicly traded company and analyze its financial performance. This semester-long project requires them to interact with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website to retrieve several years of company’s annual reports, use Excel to analyze financial statements, performing ratio analysis and modeling stock valuation, write a business report, and finally present their recommendation to the class whether or not to add that stock to a portfolio.
The students were very excited when Ashley Etheridge, Director of Business Planning at Charter Communications came to class on October 20, 2022. The goal of the visit was to shed the light on what the actual financial analyst at Charter does in Ashley’s line of business – Planning and Analysis. Ashley carefully described the set of skills that is necessary for success in a financials industry job: owning the task from start to finish; data analysis; accuracy; and polished presentations of results in written, analytical, and oral presentation forms.
Ashley also emphasized the use of Excel in business analytics. She suggested to create a story with data, think through model structure, and design validation checks and backup materials. She entertained the class with the discussion of the “Greatest Excel Spreadsheet Errors of All Time”.
Students were able to ask questions and learn about Ashley’s career trajectory and her personal accounts of mistakes she made and successes she experienced while her more than a decade at Charter. She concluded her visit showcasing internship and job opportunities that are currently available at Charter.
The benefits of inviting employers in the classroom could not be overstated. The employers bring a unique perspective that can complement any classroom content while providing industry and career insight. The effect on students is amplified when a presenter can relate their day-to-day activities on the job to the skills that students are acquiring in a course. The clarification of such connections voiced by an industry professional, helps students identify career readiness competencies that they are developing in a particular course and become ready for a successful interview for an internship or a job.