What is your academic/professional background prior to coming to AU?
I completed a Bachelor's degree in economics ("political economics") at the University of Heidelberg, Germany and had focused on the fields of international economics and macroeconomics. I had also taken rigorous classes in econometrics and financial econometrics and had worked for a year as a teacher's assistant, providing tutoring for the statistical program STATA. In the summer of 2010, I interned at the Ifo Institute in Munich, Germany, a renowned economic research institute, and provided support for macroeconomic and business cycle research and analysis. There I learned to apply my theoretical knowledge to real economic topics and had to use statistical programs such as STATA or EViews for analysis and prognosis.
Why did you choose AU, and the MA in Economics in particular?
I had already decided during my undergraduate studies that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in economics in the U.S. Most of the literature used in my undergraduate classes was written by renowned American economists. Since I enjoyed classes in the fields of international and developmental economics as well as trade, monetary policy, and macroeconomics, it seemed that a program in the U.S. would provide me with more opportunities, both in terms of teaching as well as practical experience. With this goal in mind, I successfully applied for a Fulbright scholarship for the academic year of 2011-12. American University was one of few schools that offered an econ master's program that emphasized economic policies and global economic issues. Mostly I valued the focus on preparing its students for careers in international or multilateral organizations and agencies. Its location in Washington DC, a veritable hub for think tanks, NGOs, and other economic institutions made the program even more attractive to me.
Have you worked on any specific research projects that you would like to highlight?
During the second semester, the class Applied Econometrics II required that we use our knowledge of econometric analysis to research an economic issue. Being from Germany, one of the most pressing and interesting current economic topics that came to mind was the sovereign debt crisis that is currently raging in Europe. Finding a strand of literature that had found substantial evidence for the importance of sovereign credit rating changes to financial markets, I used autoregressive distributed lag models to analyze the impact of sovereign credit rating changes on stock market returns of Greece and Germany between 1999 and 2011 and found that the impact was especially significant for Greek financial markets during the crisis period after 2008.
Can you describe what you are working on at your current internship/job?
Since January 2012, I have been continuously interning at the Development Effectiveness division at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in downtown Washington, DC. Having taken the fantastic class Project Evaluation in Developing Countries in my first semester with Prof. Paul Winters, in which I learned about the methodology of impact evaluation and its application to development projects, I was offered the opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge to real development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. In a nutshell, impact evaluation tries to assess, using econometric tools, and clearly identify the impact, or causal effect, of a project on the beneficiary population that is directly attributable to the program. Among others, I am currently providing support and analytical work for a rural electrification project in Ecuador, for which I have to help prepare the design of an impact evaluation. To obtain credit for this internship, I also wrote a research paper that tries to establish how impact evaluations should be designed to successfully assess the impact of rural electrification projects.
Not only has this work been very interesting and a great learning experience, I also enjoy the international atmosphere at the Bank - as most projects are located in Spanish speaking countries, part of my work has to be completed in Spanish as well, which has been a highly challenging and interesting part of my internship experience. I am convinced that this opportunity would not have presented itself, had I not decided to pursue my degree in Washington DC, for which I am really grateful!
If you are a prospective student and have a question about the program, you can email Maja at firstname.lastname@example.org.