2020-2021 Newsletter

Fall 2020. Issue 5.

Welcome from the Department Chair

Welcome to the fifth issue of our annual newsletter Inside Economics. In a year unlike any other on the Hilltop, there has been many great achievements and steady progress for Economics at SMU.

Our faculty, staff, and students showed tremendous resiliency and dedication as instruction transitioned to a combination of virtual and SMUFlex. The Economics Department also went through a leadership transition as Professor Santanu Roy concluded a six-year term as the department chairperson. It is my great honor to succeed him and we are all thankful for his years of exemplary leadership.

Through its numerous challenges, this year has reminded me often of the quote by novelist James Lane Allen

“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.”

The adversity created by COVID-19 has revealed the Economics Department, as well as the broader SMU community, to be resolute in their mission to shape world changers. While face-to-face contact has waned, the creation and dissemination of knowledge has continued unabated. In fact, it has grown with the addition of Dr. Wookun Kim as a new faculty member.

Our outstanding faculty continue to be engaged in cutting edge research and publish regularly in top academic journals.  They also continue to receive important professional recognitions. Professor Klaus Desmet was a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Professor Dan Millimet and PhD alum Dr. Ian McDonough received the 2019 best paper prize in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy. Millimet and McDonough were also awarded a grant to research food security by the US Department of Agriculture. Professor Ömer Özak was highlighted in an article in Colombia’s main periodical featuring the “new generation of Colombian scientists.” Even the staff got involved! Undergraduate Advisor, Maira Meki, received an Excellence in Advising award by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).

The Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative continues to grow. The joint initiative supports research on important domestic and international economic policy topics through fellowships for doctoral students, national publicity for research output, and a visiting fellows program that has brought several prominent policy experts to SMU. Much more is expected in the future.

Economics continues to be the most popular major within Dedman College (and the second most popular major at SMU).  In 2019-20, 166 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economics; more than 30% identified as female. Nearly 380 current Mustangs have a declared major in economics or public policy, a program composed of a mixture of economics and political science.

Our May 2020 graduates continued to demonstrate impressive performance in initial job placements. Exit surveys of economics graduates stress the ability of economics to help one understand many diverse facets of the world, from international trade to human rights violations to local institutions to data analysis. Moreover, one of our graduates wrote:

This department has some world-class professors… This department's strength stems from the professors. They are engaged, passionate, willing to help, and brilliant.”

Moving forward, the department expects to provide an exciting complement to the new Bachelor of Science in Data Science available to SMU undergraduates. The department also expects to play a major role in ensuring that the educational environment at SMU is inclusive and welcoming to all students.

Our graduate programs continue to attract students from across the globe. 24 new students joined our masters’ programs in 2020. Skills in data analytics, rigorous economic modeling, and econometric tools enable our graduates to find rewarding professional jobs in financial and economics consultancy firms as well as other organizations. Recent placements include JP Morgan, Citibank, Prudential, Deloitte Advisory, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Our doctoral program continues to be one of the most highly ranked on campus and graduates of the program play a crucial role in improving the visibility and academic reputation of SMU. Three new students joined our PhD program in 2020. Over the last three years, we graduated 19 new doctorates, nearly half of whom identify as female, and almost all of them hold faculty positions in universities across the world or advanced research positions in major corporate organizations.

I invite you to browse through this newsletter to learn more. Thank you for staying connected to us.



Daniel Millimet