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Therese Comcowich Lucas earned her master’s degree in economics in 1952. She was the first woman to do so, and she was the first female teaching assistant in economics. The male graduate students in economics then named the group after a comic strip: Terry and her pirates. The Ansonia native now lives in retirement in Tucson, Arizona, but she criss-crossed the country over the years, following her husband’s job moves while she maintained her own active career as an economist and consultant.

Read more on the UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Alumni site.

Earlier this month, Prof. Xenia Matschke got a paper accepted in the Canadian Journal of Economics. The paper titled “Trade Policy in Majoritarian Systems: The Case of the U.S.” was coauthored with Per Fredriksson (University of Louisville) and Jenny Minier (University of Kentucky). A previous version of this paper was published as UConn Economics Working Paper, “For Sale: Trade Policy in Majoritarian Systems“. Another paper by the same authors on the influence of a majoritarian electoral system on environmental tax policies was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management (see blog entry).

In the current paper on trade policy in majoritarian systems, Matschke and her coauthors provide a theory of trade policy determination that incorporates the protectionist bias inherent in majoritarian systems, as suggested by Grossman and Helpman (2005). The prediction that emerges is that in majoritarian systems, the majority party favors industries located disproportionately in majority districts. The authors test this prediction using U.S. data on tariffs, Congressional campaign contributions, and industry location in districts represented by the majority party over the period 1989-97. They find evidence of a significant majority bias in trade policy for the years when Democrats were the majority party in Congress. An industry’s estimated benefit from being represented by the majority party appears at least as large in magnitude as the benefit from lobbying.

We enjoy keeping tabs on our former students. We’re not nosey—it’s just fun to hear what they’ve been up to. We recently caught up with Monica Tedeschi Cantor (BA ’94; MA ’95), who is currently taking a stay-at-home “breather” with 2 year-old twins, Melanie and Henry, and her 14 year-old dog, Makita. But, if Monica is getting any rest, it’s certainly well deserved.

Never exactly the lazy sort, during her UConn days Monica belonged to crew and the Russian Club and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and local halfway houses. Her undergraduate Honors thesis on privatization in Bulgaria drew upon her summer internship with a World Bank consultant in Sofia, and her MA thesis focused on the determinants of health status in developing countries. She graduated Magna Cum Laude as an Honors Scholar in Economics and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and then completed her MA in Economics in 1995.

Monika worked in New York for the next 5 years, including 3 years as an Assistant Treasurer at Chase Manhattan Bank, performing profit and loss analyses of financial derivatives. She also worked for 2 years at Mitsui & Co. as a Trading Assistant in the execution of corn, soybean and soybean oil future trades.

Returning to school in 2000, Monica spent the next two years at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), where she worked on the Journal of International Affairs, received a foreign language scholarship and studied French in Nice. She also received a program assistant fellowship during her second year and completed two research internships with the United Nations, focusing particularly on U.N / private sector partnerships.

From 2002 to 2004, Monica worked as an Analyst and Senior Analyst at the New York City Office of Management and Budget (NYCOMB), helping to oversee the City’s budgetary process in regards to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), the NYC Planning Department, and the NYC Building Department. Responsibilities included budget and personnel analyses, meeting with senior officials, and management of internal processes.

Monika then joined NYCEDC—a quasi-public agency under the direction of a President and the City’s Deputy Mayor and Mayor. NYCEDC develops and implements programs and capital projects that foster economic growth in the City, including job creation. From 2004-2005 she worked in the Strategic Planning Department, where two of her major projects included a program to help ensure Minority and Women Business-Owned Enterprises (MWBEs) had a voice at NYCEDC and throughout City agencies, and a recommendation to the Mayor on how to approach Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs).

Later, as a Financial Strategist and Vice President in the Budget Department (2005-2007), she helped oversee and manage a team of ten budget analysts that carried out NYCEDC‘s fiscal responsibilities. They initiated strategic alliances between departments such as the Real Estate Group and the Capital Projects Group, and between agencies such as NYCEDC’s Economic Group and NYC Office of Management and Budget’s Economic Group. One of the most significant projects included research and recommendations to the President and the Mayor on Tax Incentive Financing (TIFs).

You can see why we’re hoping Monica will be able to participate in one of the professional experience panels at our forthcoming Graduate Reunion and Forum, scheduled for April 2, 2010. Children and pets are welcome too!

Following in the footsteps of a philanthropist who helped make his college education possible, Michael Alpert ’90 has established a scholarship to help high-achieving undergraduate students succeed at the University of Connecticut. Alpert and his wife, Ariana Napier, have committed $25,000 for a need-based scholarship for honors students.

The benefits of scholarships exceed financial assistance. Scholarships recognize students’ accomplishments and promise and can incentivize them to succeed.

“I was twice awarded the Louis D. Traurig Scholarship for excellence in economics. Not only was the financial support very welcomed, but it represented an example of collegiate academic achievement,” says Alpert. “That’s why it’s also something that remains on my resume today. I strongly believe that awards like this as well as the distinction of the Honors Program gave me a leg up when I applied and was accepted to the Wharton School of Business and also aided me in the competitive world of Wall Street.”

Traurig attended UConn in the 1910s. The prominent banker and civic leader, who died in 1984, served on the UConn Foundation’s Board of Directors from 1973 to 1979. When he established the Traurig Scholarship in 1973, it was one of the largest endowed scholarships held by the foundation. Traurig wanted to support economics students at the top of their class, and his scholarship is still doing so today.

Read more at Our Moment, the UConn Foundation’s e-newsletter.

For the second time in recent months, the Economics Department has had one of its students, Mark Connolly, chosen for the prestigious designation of University Scholar. Mark’s selection follows on the heels of the selection in August of Philip Gorecki, a double major in economics and molecular and cell biology. Administered by the Honors Program, the highly-selective University Scholars program is designed to provide “the most academically elite students at UConn” an opportunity to advance their UConn education through this special program. A key part of the program is in-depth and focused research on a project of the student’s choice. Mark was one of only 24 students recently selected as 2010 University Scholars.

Mark is pursuing dual degrees in Accounting and Economics, and is working toward his CPA degree. He is particularly interested in auditing and in environmental economics and has thus chosen to focus his project on environmental auditing. He will be studying the role that accounting firms can and do play in environmental auditing, and the potential for auditing to provide valuable information both to the audited firms and to the public. He is particularly interested in the use of audits as third-party certification. Mark will be interning this summer with PricewaterhouseCoopers to gain a greater understanding of the audit process. His faculty advisors on this project will be Professor Lawrence Gramling in the School of Business, and Professors Kathleen Segerson and Olivier Morand, both in Economics.

One advantage of the Scholars’ program is the flexibility it offers students in designing their plans of study. Mark has structured his plan of study and remaining coursework to give him the background necessary for his project. In the course of doing this, he will also be preparing himself for his next goal, graduate study in environmental economics. One day he hopes to be a research professor bridging the gap between industry and environmental protection.

In March 2008, the Department hosted a Graduate Reunion and Forum at the Bishop Center. At the one-day event, some of our former PhD students presented their recent research, while others employed by government or the private sector described their work in professional experience panels. We are planning to host a similar event on Friday, April 2, 2010, preceded by two other events you may wish to attend.

The first is the Philip E. Austin Forum on Economics and Public Policy, which will be held at 4:00 on Thursday, April 1, 2010, in the Student Union Auditorium. This is an inaugural event, which will feature a lecture on climate change policy by Harvard environmental economist Robert Stavins (see details in separate blog entry).

After the Austin Forum, at 7:00 PM on Thursday evening, the Department will hold its Annual Awards Banquet at the Bishop Center. In addition to recognizing the achievements of some of our outstanding undergraduates and graduate students, we’ll be honoring Bill Lott, who will be leaving the Department this spring after 40 years of outstanding service to the University.

We currently are looking for volunteers to present papers and participate in the professional experience panels, so please let us know if you would be interested in taking part. A brief note to Dennis.Heffley@uconn.edu will suffice. We’ll be forwarding more information by email, so if you think you may not be on our current list, or if you have recently changed your email address, please contact us.

Finally, if you would like to catch up on (and keep up with) the activities of the Department’s students, faculty members, and alumni, continue to visit the Blog. At the bottom of each page, you can scroll back to earlier entries, which also can be accessed by clicking on the links listed on the left side of this page.

We hope to see you in April!

Very best wishes,
Dennis Heffley

On Thursday, April 1, the day before the Graduate Reunion and Forum, the Department of Economics will host the first Philip E. Austin Forum on Economics and Public Policy. The purpose of the Forum is to provide an opportunity for discussion and debate about current public policy issues from an economic perspective. The Forum is funded through the Philip E. Austin Endowed Chair, which is currently held by Economics Professor Kathleen Segerson.

Given the prominence of the current debate about climate change, including the recent international climate change summit in Copenhagen, we have chosen to focus this first Austin Forum on this important and controversial issue. The featured speaker at the Forum will be Harvard environmental economist Robert Stavins, who will present a talk entitled “Climate Change Policy After Copenhagen”. Professor Stavins is the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program. He is a world-renowned economist, who has been working on the economics of climate change and the design of “cap-and-trade” systems for decades. Professor Stavins was recently honored as a 2009 Fellow [pdf] of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AERE). The award was given by Professor Segerson, who is the current President of AERE, at the annual AERE luncheon at the ASSA meetings in Atlanta . In bestowing the award, she quoted from letters of support that stated: “In my view, no other environmental economist can match Rob in the ability to work effectively with policy makers…I cannot think of another current environmental economist who straddles more effectively the academic and policy communities” and Rob “has probably done more than any other single environmental economist to bring the idea of tradable emission permits (“cap and trade”) to the attention of policy-makers as a viable alternative for the management of pollution levels.” Professor Stavins also writes a regular blog on An Economic View of the Environment.

The Austin Forum is scheduled for 4:00 PM in the Student Union Auditorium and is open to all interested members of the UConn community and the public. President Emeritus Philip Austin, Provost Peter Nicholls, and CLAS Dean Jeremy Teitelbaum plan to attend this event.

Recent graduate James Boudreau, advised by Vicki Knoblauch, will publish the paper “Stratification and Growth in Agent-Based Matching Markets” in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. The relationship between economic mobility and growth has long been a focus of economists’ attention, and James’ paper contributes to that literature by emphasizing the dynamic impacts of two-sided matching.

The model economy in the paper features heterogeneous agents that compete in an intergenerational match game for employment. Agents known as workers make productivity-enhancing investments, using their endowed wealth to add to pre-existing ability levels as they compete to match with other agents known as firms. A novel feature of the model is its use of the market’s matching process as an evolutionary fitness selection mechanism. Workers that are unable to find a match drop out of the population and thus do not contribute to current or future productive capacity. Those that do match are able to pass on their attributes, but in a manner that is not fully deterministic. Because of the stochastic element to inheritance, results are arrived at by way of agent-based simulations. Even with perfect information and substantial variety in both offspring and entrants, two-sided matching inevitably causes the population to evolve into stratified groups. Corrective measures are possible to improve mobility, but by altering the path of market evolution, a policy may have unintended impacts on growth and inequality.

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