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Three summer experiences — in government, research, and consulting — help senior economics major find the perfect career path

Author: Indonesia Brown and Josh Weinhold

Mac Ryan
Graham "Mac" Ryan

It didn’t take long for Graham “Mac” Ryan to figure out what he wanted to study at Notre Dame. 

After just one conversation with James Sullivan, the Gilbert F. Schaefer College Professor of Economics, during a campus visit and hearing about the economics major and the philosophy, politics, and economics minor, he knew those were the programs for him.

Determining how he wanted to use those professionally, though, was going to take some time. So Ryan decided to make the most of his summers figuring that out.

“I realized these were the years where I had an opportunity to dip my toe in the water and figure out what I was passionate about,” he said. “So I dipped my toe in the water — in quite a few things.” 

First, he went to Washington, D.C., spending a week in the American Enterprise Institute’s summer program, then interning with U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, where he and other college students were given the opportunity to pitch policy ideas, write draft memos, and gain other valuable experiences.

“I realized these were the years where I had an opportunity to dip my toe in the water and figure out what I was passionate about. So I dipped my toe in the water — in quite a few things.” 

Mac Ryan Mitt Romney
Ryan interned in U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney's office the summer after his first year.

“I dove into it and came back amazed by the experience,” he said. “I loved Capitol Hill but realized that might not be for me yet.”

So his second summer, he engaged in research with the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities, which Sullivan co-founded and co-directs, setting up treatment and control trials and other tasks associated with LEO’s efforts to find evidence-based solutions to policy problems.

The experience helped him realize he loved being in situations where he had to think on his feet, both individually and with a team, so he set his sights on a consulting experience next.

He landed an internship with the San Diego Padres, where he was tasked with coming up with creative solutions to attracting younger fans and the Latino community to MLB games and increase their interest in baseball overall. The experience culminated with him giving a presentation to the franchise’s CEO, board of directors, and other high-level leaders.

“It was pretty incredible to realize that, with all the resources and opportunities Notre Dame has given me, that I was able to stand in front of these individuals and make the case for where I thought they should go,” he said.

After a three-summer journey of discernment, it also showed him that consulting was the career path for him. Before he returned to Notre Dame for his senior year, he applied to — then soon received a job offer from — Bain & Co., where he will begin working as an associate consultant in Chicago after graduating.

“It’s a culmination of everything I’ve done,” he said, “and everything I can’t wait to do.”

Mac Ryan Spring Break
Ryan (left) with friends from Ryan Hall on a senior year spring break trip to Yosemite National Park.

Economics, PPE, and his broader liberal arts education have given Ryan a number of valuable attributes that he sees helping him in his consulting career — from quantitative skills working with data to becoming a more confident public speaker.

“Professors here don’t want to just see what you can do with pen and paper,” he said. “They want to see how you can present that to your peers and how you can present that to them.”

Ryan has found that teamwork is essential to reaching solutions to pressing problems. When working with others inside and outside the classroom, finding the middle ground has been critical, he said, because the answer doesn’t often come from one person.

Through small class sizes, deep discussion, and an interdisciplinary curriculum, he’s also found that he’s been able to strengthen his own arguments by learning from those with different perspectives.

“There’s even greater value in just sitting back and listening to those around you,” he said. “And that’s one of my favorite things about Arts & Letters — sitting across from me is a philosophy major. To the left is a political science student, and maybe an engineer to the right of me. So they are giving you perspectives that might not be your own.”

“There’s even greater value in just sitting back and listening to those around you. And  that’s one of my favorite things about Arts & Letters — sitting across from me is a philosophy major. To the left is a political science student, and maybe an engineer to the right of me. So they are giving you perspectives that might not be your own.”