Why did you join the PhD in Economics Program at AU?
I completed by BA in economics and political science at Smith College, with a regional concentration on the Middle East. I was looking for graduate programs in international business and economics that had a multidisciplinary twist. I was also looking forward to being in a big city where there were lots of internship opportunities to get hands-on training in development/international economics. While AU was perhaps not my first choice, its location and the generous financial aid eased my decision.
Could you tell us about some of your experiences while at AU?
I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to teach classes. Graduate students at AU have the possibility to teach not just introductory micro and macro economics, but also specialty courses. In my case, this was the course on History of Economic Thought. I immensely enjoyed that teaching experience. It provided with a burst of fresh air in my otherwise conventional graduate student's life. I also had some flexibility in designing the course material (for example, I introduced my students to the economic thought of 13th-century Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun). I am grateful to professor John Wisman for the seminars he organized to help students become effective teachers. I was surprised at how long it took me to settle on a dissertation topic. My initial interest was in researching child labor. Unfortunately, I was not able to narrow my interest down to a "researchable" topic. So I listened to the informal wisdom regarding dissertation work: there are essentially two kinds of dissertations, those that are completed and those that are not. I was grateful when Professor Feinberg suggested that I continue work on exchange rate pass-through, an area where I had done some research for him previously. Later, this topic proved to be very helpful in my job search.
How did your career evolve after completing your PhD at AU?
The department kindly hired me to teach full-time as an Assistant Visiting Professor for a year in the Fall of 1998 after I completed my PhD. I began interviewing with the IMF and the WB later in the fall. In February 1999, I received an offer from the IMF to start in their Economist Program and I have been there ever since. My first assignment at the Fund consisted in analyzing the monetary framework and financial sector of Mauritania. Since then, my work has taken me all over the world, including to the Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Syria, Francophone Africa, Bolivia, Bulgaria, and most recently Turkey.
How do you see the years ahead for you?
I plan for the foreseeable future to continue to work at the IMF where I have been fortunate to be promoted to Senior Economist. I have been concentrating more on research, mostly on the vulnerabilities and large current account deficits in fast-growing Eastern Europe countries that have been blessed by the European Union halo-effect. I hope to be able to continue to invest in this line of work in the years ahead. More generally, I am interested in regional economics to see why some regions have managed to fast-forward their financial and economic integration and thereby to create a virtuous circle of reforms and growth, while others are quibbling strangled in a spaghetti bowl of arrangements. Overall, I have a great job at the IMF, but I do find myself in constant struggle trying to ensure that I do not travel too much given the need to also stay with my family.