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Economics | Alumni

Wasiq Khan (PhD '03)

Why did you join the PhD in Economics Program at AU?

I entered the PhD program in economics at American University after having completed a master's in political science at the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor's in political and social thought at the University of Virginia. My inclination to switch out of political science was sealed when I realized my long-term career goal: teaching abroad at the university level. At the time, teaching opportunities in economics appeared quite abundant. Having grown up in the Washington, D.C. suburbs and being interested in Political Economy, made a visit to the economics department at AU quite natural. My personal fear was that I did not have adequate training in economics or mathematics having only taken two economics classes in college and having only completed two semesters of calculus. Nonetheless, I felt I could learn the necessary material while at AU, and I was able to do this by taking MA level classes in Price Theory and Income Theory before moving onto PhD level classes.   

Could you tell us about some of your experiences while at AU?

The highlight of my studies at American was undoubtedly the chance to meet and study with the Economic Historian Stefano Fenoaltea, who was an AU Visiting Professor for one year. I took Professor Fenoaltea's graduate seminar on the Economics of Slavery and subsequently chose International Economics and Economic History as my fields of specialization and went on to write a dissertation on the transatlantic slave trade under the direction of Professors John Willoughby, Larry Sawers, and Stefano Fenoaltea.    

How did your career evolve after completing your PhD at AU?

A few months before finishing the dissertation, I was hired as a short-term consultant at the HIV/AIDS unit for Africa Region at the World Bank. The one-month contract I received initially was extended and I continued working at the World Bank as a short term consultant for a year before receiving a job offer for a tenure track position in Economics at the University of Saint Mary.    

How did you end up teaching at Franklin College?

With the benefit of three years worth of full time teaching experience and in no small part due to a reference letter written for me by John Willoughby, I was able to find another position as an Assistant Professor at Franklin College Switzerland. Having an PhD from AU was a favorable credential in the eyes of those who interviewed me, The Chair of Franklin's Economics Department, Andrea Terzi, is a Post Keynesian Macroeconomist who knew a number of AU's faculty, particularly Robert Blecker. Franklin's search committee was looking for a 'different' type of economist when they hired me – one more open and sympathetic to heterodox and interdisciplinary approaches – in that sense, the AU economics training and my background in philosophy and political science marked me off in a positive way.    

How do you see the years ahead for you?

Now into my third year at Franklin and due for promotion to Associate Professor rank in the near future, I feel that I have accomplished what I set out to do many years ago when I hoped to pursue an academic career, focused on teaching at a solid institution in a beautiful foreign setting. The college has also been generous to me and has recently awarded me a course release to allow me to continue work on a book level study derived from my dissertation research.