Notre Dame’s research emphasis, mentorship benefit economics alumni moving on to top Ph.D. programs

Author: Beth Staples

Seven University of Notre Dame graduates have joined the growing list of economics majors who have entered some of the nation’s most prestigious doctoral programs.

The alumni — who all obtained professional positions in noteworthy organizations before joining Ph.D. programs — attribute their success to the undergraduate research experience, faculty mentorship, and creative instruction they received in the Department of Economics.

Eric Sims, chair of the department and the Michael P. Grace II Collegiate Chair in Economics, said the economics undergraduate major, which has had nearly 40 alumni enter Ph.D. programs in the last 10 years, is noteworthy for its rigorous and quantitative nature.

“And we make a point to expose undergraduate students to academic research,” he said.

‘What would you fight for?’

Davin Carolyn
Carolyn Davin '21

Carolyn Davin ’21, who majored in economics and applied and computational mathematics and statistics (ACMS), is pursuing her Ph.D. at Notre Dame. She said the University’s resources uniquely allow her to conduct research in the context of her Catholic faith.

“As a Notre Dame student, I was frequently asked, ‘What would you fight for?’” she said. “We were challenged to consider how our future careers would ‘bring solutions to a world in need’ and encouraged to use our own work to prevent homelessness, advocate for fair housing, end poverty, and create economic opportunity.”

After graduation, Davin worked as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., where she saw firsthand how research can inform policy. Now, she plans to study applied microeconomics to inform policy and expand access to quality education, safe housing, and just work.

“This culture of advocacy helped me see my own work in economics as a means for helping vulnerable members of our society,” she said. “Education, housing, and labor research, in the context of economics, are important ways to find solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.”

Bryson Annemarie
AnneMarie Bryson '20

Economics and mathematics major AnneMarie Bryson ’20 is pursuing her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating from Notre Dame, Bryson worked at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Research leading to societal impact

Charlie Hanzel ’21 is grateful the economics department emphasized independent student research.

“In several writing-intensive classes that I took (Advanced Labor, Political Economy of Development, and Economic History), I was pushed to think about my own research questions and conduct the data analysis needed to answer them,” he said.

Charlie Hanzel '21

The exposure to research was invaluable for Hanzel over the last two years while he was at the National Bureau of Economic Research as a research assistant studying health economics, particularly the long-term care sector.

The Rochester, Minnesota, native anticipates his undergraduate research experience will continue to prove beneficial as he obtains his doctorate at Northwestern University.

“Having grown up near the Mayo Clinic, I have been interested for years in research surrounding the structure of the health care system and provision of health insurance in the U.S.,” Hanzel said. “Given the central role health policy plays in the lives of virtually every citizen, I believe research in this area can have important societal benefits.”

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Mika Inoue '21

Mika Inoue ’21, who majored in economics and ACMS, is obtaining her doctorate at the University of Michigan. After graduation, she gained experience at the Global Poverty Research Lab at Northwestern University.

Interdisciplinary studies add to experience

Maddie Penn ’21 is pursuing a doctorate in economics at Yale University, where she plans to conduct international economics research centering on macroeconomics, trade, and political economy.

“I think that studying the interactions between global economic and political institutions in an analytical manner is particularly important when their dynamics have increasingly tangible consequences for many populations,” she said.

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Madeline Penn '21

The international economics (with a concentration in Spanish) and ACMS major at Notre Dame appreciated that faculty members provided her with a broad introduction to the whole field.

“While they invested in any and all of my early interest in pursuing research (through opportunities to work directly with professors as a teaching and research assistant),” Penn said. “They also readily engaged with economics in increasingly creative ways — as I experienced in my cross-disciplinary international economics program.”

Like Davin and Bryson, Penn worked at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors where she supported economists in the Division of International Finance.

“Not only did I get to experience the day-to-day work involved in a career centered around economic research, but I was inspired by the feedback loop between innovative research and its application in clarifying the pressing policy issues of today,” she said.

Zimmer Patrick4
Patrick Zimmer '20

Patrick Zimmer ’20 is earning a doctorate at the University of California, Davis, where he is interested in examining labor economics and public economics relating to education and economic opportunity.

At Notre Dame, Zimmer obtained a supplementary major in ACMS. He appreciates the career resources provided at Notre Dame and the faculty’s enthusiasm for teaching and mentoring.

After commencement, the Kellogg International Scholar from Billings, Montana, worked at the Analysis Group in Denver, where he provided economic consulting and conducted data analysis, academic research, and industry research relevant to legal matters.

The experience, he said, taught him to efficiently and collaboratively analyze complex topics.

Catherine Lawlor
Catherine Lawlor '21

And, Catherine Lawlor ’21, who majored in finance and economics and worked as a research associate at the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities, is pursuing her Ph.D. at Boston College. 

In addition to their admittance into doctoral programs, Davin and Bryson were named National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellows last spring.

Sims said the Department of Economics at Notre Dame is blessed to have had — and continue to have — so many talented students.

“We are excited to see what the future holds for this newest crop of Notre Dame alums going into graduate school,” he said.