Mitchell Ginsburg (PhD '03)
Why did you join the PhD in Economics Program at AU?
I entered the PhD program in economics at American University after receiving a Masters in urban systems and policy planning from the Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering. At Northwestern, it became obvious to me that I enjoyed economics more than I realized when I was an undergraduate double majoring in international relations and economics at Johns Hopkins. I became interested in the AU program because it was in the evenings, thereby providing the possibility of working downtown during the day to gain practical real world experience while in school. Also, the fact that the program allowed students to select between the standard neoclassical or heterodox approaches drew me to the program. My main interest was economic development and thought that being exposed to various approaches could be beneficial.
Could you tell us about some of your experiences while at AU?
Going through the courses of the development field, it was required that we work in a group on weekly homework and a presentation. As these classes also included many SIS students who were more policy oriented, it taught me how to relate the economics to policy and related issues to the non-economist. This helped prepare me for my current position in which I work on teams with many non-economists and have to explain the economics and how it relates to the policy or dispute the team is working on.
AU's proximity to the many think tanks, non-profits and the federal government can be both a benefit and a curse at the same time. It's great in the sense that many opportunities exist to get positions to practice what we are being taught in the classroom and make some money to survive in the DC metro area. In fact, it was my position at the United States International Trade Commission that led me to my ultimate dissertation topic. The drawback of course, is that working downtown can be distracting, making it hard to actually work on the dissertation. It was only the threats that I would not be granted another extension that got me to complete my dissertation.
How did your career evolve after completing your PhD at AU?
Prior to completing my PhD, I already had a permanent position at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Completing the PhD did not directly impact my career in terms of my day to day responsibilities, but was helpful for justifying a promotion. Although it currently has not affected my career path, I feel having the PhD provided the knowledge to tackle the many diverse issues that I am asked to deal with. And when the time comes to move on to a new adventure, I believe having the PhD will be helpful in finding new opportunities.