Report from the Chair

The Department of Economics welcomed Walter G. Park as new Department Chair. Walter took over after Mieke Meurs served in the role for three years.

Walter G. Park

"I am pleased to share with you our 2020-2021 newsletter. This has been a turbulent year, marked by a global pandemic, summer protests, massive wildfires, election challenges, runoffs, and a siege on Capitol Hill. It was also a remarkable year in that we endured, came together as a community, and avoided surrendering to adversity. In The Plague, Albert Camus states, “Quite simply what we learn in a time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in [people] than to despise.” 

Just about a year ago, during a placid spring break (mid-March), the university swiftly entered a lockdown. Like a sharp right-angle turn, our campus abruptly became deserted and our classes shifted online, the modality of teaching throughout the rest of 2020. As of spring 2021, a few of our courses are offering in-person classes for a few times during the semester, and residential experiences are open to a few undergraduate students. 

Despite all the upheavals, the Department has managed to continue in our functions, and improvised where necessary. This newsletter provides a glimpse of our activities and achievements. None of these could have been possible without the diligence of faculty and staff and the patience of students and the support of the university with technology and training.

On behalf of the Department, I hope you enjoy this newsletter. We hope to share more news with you in the near future, and we certainly would welcome hearing news from you."

Walter G. Park

Thank You, Essential Workers!

The Economics Department wants to extend our sincerest gratitude to the essential workers who have continued to maintain AU’s campus and our Kreeger building. Your hard work and continued presence on campus ensures that we have beautiful campus spaces to which we can eventually return. Thank you for all that you do! Stay healthy, stay safe, and we hope to see you in person soon. 

Economics Department Administrative Staff 

An essential worker at AU

Faculty News

New Faculty

We also have new faculty who have joined: Sue Bahk (Johns Hopkins University PhD), Kelly Jones (UC Berkeley PhD), Greg Lane (UC Berkley PhD), and Juan Montecino (U Mass PhD). We are fortunate to have them. 


From Amos Golan, faculty writing for the Info-metrics Institute: Oxford University Press (OUP) has recently published a collection of chapters on recent innovations in info-metrics, entitled Advances in Info-Metrics: Information and Information Processing across Disciplines, OUP (2021), officially published December 14, 2020. The contributors of the volume include affiliates of the institute and other researchers that work on related topics. The book discusses innovations in info-metrics—modelling and inference with insufficient information—and provides tools to solve problems using the interdisciplinary info-metrics framework and explores the mathematical and philosophical foundations of inference. It includes new cross-disciplinary case studies and practical examples, and shows the connections among data, information, and inference in different contexts. Learn more about the Info-Metrics Workshop. The next Info-Metrics workshop will take place on April 8 and is co-sponsored with the Center for the Science of Information. We hope to see you there!

Economic Forecasting in Times of Covid-19

Xuguang Simon Sheng co-organized (with Laurent Ferrara, SKEMA Business School) a workshop entitled “Economic Forecasting in Times of Covid-19” from July 6-7, 2020. The workshop, sponsored by The International Institute of Forecasting, addressed the worldwide effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the many challenges raised for economic forecasters. Almost every aspect of economic forecasting is affected, such as measuring the unprecedented health shock, lack of reliable economic data, or massive spikers in COVID-induced uncertainties. This virtual workshop brought together researchers and policy makers working on innovative approaches of modelling, evaluation and forecasting of the pandemic and its impact on the economy. For more information, please visit the Economic Forecasting workshop link and the associated Economic Forecasting YouTube Channel. Based on the workshop, Laurent and Simon are editing a special issue on “Economic Forecasting in Times of Covid-19” for the International Journal of Forecasting, the leading journal in the forecasting field.


Since we last contacted everyone via newsletter, we should mention that Professors Ivy Broder and Larry Sawers have retired. We are in deep gratitude for their contributions to the department. We miss their presence here and wish them well.

Amos Golan was on an illustrious panel at the recent American Economics Association virtual meetings in January 2021. The panel session was entitled “Information, Modeling and Inference: Toward a ‘Rational’ Approach to Econometric Analysis?” and chaired by our colleague and affiliate faculty, Robin Lumsdaine of Kogod. Amos was joined by two Nobel economists, Tom Sargent and Jim Heckman, along with Steve Durlauf, Rosa Matzkin, and Keisuke Hirano.” 

Robert Blecker spoke at a conference in September 2020 in honor of Michael Kalecki (1899-1970), one of the greatest “heterodox” economists of all time and an intellectual inspiration for the modern post-Keynesian school of thought. 

Walter Park spoke at a conference held in October 2020 on the effects of global licensing, co-hosted by the Innovation Alliance, the Licensing Executives Society (LES), the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), and the Global Innovation Policy Center at the US Chamber of Commerce (GIPC). For more information about the conference, check out the Innovation Alliance website

Ralph Sonenshine gave an interview on a Turkish news network in November 2020 to give his thoughts on COVID-19 and the US federal elections and their impacts on global trade and the economy. For more information, check out Sonenshine's interview with ANews

Heterodox MacroeconomicsRobert Blecker and his co-author Mark Setterfield (U Mass, Amherst) published Heterodox Macroeconomics: Models of Demand, Distribution and Growth. Cheltenham, UK, and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar Publishing, Ltd., 2019. The book provides a comparison between heterodox and mainstream approaches to long-term economic growth and analyzes models of income distribution and models of growth in an open economy.

Amos Golan, as mentioned previously, has co-edited a book published with Oxford University Press.

Jon Wisman also published a book with OUP entitled The Origins and Dynamics of Inequality: Sex, Politics, and Ideology. It should appear by late spring. The book strongly draws on Darwin’s The Descent of Man among other intellectual giants. Keep an eye for Wisman’s work coming to bookshelves and the web.


Gregory Lane has received three awards: first, from the World Bank for research on fostering resilience in low-income economics; second, from the London School of Economics for research on e-commerce platforms and the growth of African firms; and third, from Innovations for Poverty Action to study education, loss of home, and adolescent mental health. 

Juan Montecino and Ignacio Gonzalez have an award from the New Venture Fund to study taxation and inequality in the US. 

Student News

Program on Gender Analysis in Economics (PGAE)

From Farah Tasneem, doctoral student: “The pandemic has not been easy on anyone-be they care workers, working parents, or academics. In between being Zoom fatigued and rushing from one meeting or class to the next, PGAE at American University successfully completed another semester by hosting seminars, orientations, and bringing global scholars from various countries around the world. PGAE held two successful orientations this semester, which works as an icebreaker between students interested in Gender research and faculties experienced in it. Seminars hosted by the PGAE brought into the limelight how the pandemic affects care-workers both a home and abroad, the impact of austerity policies on women, and the impact of abortion laws on women’s economic outcomes. Despite the pandemic, we also continued our OPEN Society Foundation sponsored Global Scholars initiative virtually, where we brought six visiting scholars for the academic year 2020-2021 from Ghana, Brazil, and Columbia who participated in our graduate-level Gender courses and are expected to implement their curricula in gender analysis in economics in universities where they are employed. We hope to continue our success in the coming years despite the pandemic’s consequences and promote the greater empowerment of women worldwide through economic analysis that supports the appropriate social and economic policy.”

Research Grant

Our doctoral candidate, Glen Kwende, received at $15,000 grant from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth for his research on workers’ bargaining power over time in the United States. The research, part of his dissertation, aims at providing a pathway for estimating a time series of workers’ bargaining power from the 1950s to present. It builds on both the search and matching labor economics literature and advances made in time-varying parameter estimation to provide a first of its kind estimate of bargaining power in the US.


From Senior Elizabeth Seremet: “I am a double major in Economics and International Relations. This fall, I interned at the Department of State in the Bureau of African Affairs in the Office of Economic and Regional Affairs. My tasks included documenting the impact the pandemic has had on Africa, from both a public health and economic standpoint. I have also helped create an ‘African Factbook’ of macroeconomic data. My other long-term project is investigating voting coincidence between African states and the US within the United Nations. Interning during COVID-19 has been challenging, primarily due to the virtual nature of the internship. I have felt as though working from home has made it harder for me to communicate with my colleagues and be as productive as I would be in the office. However, the opportunity to inter at the State Department has been a wonderful experience. I have been able to apply my economics knowledge to the African continent, bridging my interests of international affairs and economics. I hope to continue doing this type of work after graduating in May!”

From Junior Zara Memon: “This fall I had the opportunity to work as a communications intern from the United States Department of Treasury in the Bureau of the Fiscal Service. While my internship was completely remote, I attended meetings, webinars, and planning sessions online through Microsoft Teams. My work focused on the intersection of private and public sector accounting, with an emphasis on data evaluation and accessibility. I worked to create staff databases, update website content, and prepare materials for virtual conferences. Throughout my time at the Treasury Department, I was able to apply economic theories such as creative destruction, market regulation, and resource allocation to my daily tasks as well as build communication and collaboration skills in the office.”


From the Virtual Classroom: Teaching during a Pandemic

Juan Martinez-Covarrubias teaching on Zoom

Professor Juan Martinez-Covarrubias is an adjunct professor who taught on of the large principles of macroeconomics courses. Faculty and teaching assistants alike know the challenges of teaching a large class of 200+ students in Ward 1 or 2 (which is now called the Kerwin Building). Imagine teaching that class online! Juan was of those who seemed to possess the secret recipe to making it work. Juan is a new adjunct professor who holds a doctorate from the University of Limerick in Ireland and has many years of experience teaching and in senior positions in the Mexican civil service. He was recently the Chief Economist of the Eastern and Midlands Regional Assembly, Ireland.

An Econ class meeting remotely via Zoom

Before the Fall semester started, Juan spent sixty hours over three weeks to prepare for the course in advance. He had a team of five doctoral teaching assistants (Han Sun, the head TA, Raggy Bjarnadottir, Tony Santana, Abdulai Husain, and Naziha Sultana) and an advanced undergraduate Supplementary Instruction leader Amanda Robic. Juan utilized the Blackboard platform and the learning management system, Sapling (by Macmillian). This picture shows his Zoom class (of course, class participants had to scroll through multiple such screens.)

In Juan’s own words, here a few things that guided him in managing this course: 

  • Role of CTRL [Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning]: know and understand its key role as partner to deliver successful courses. 
  • Principles: Student learning is at the heart of course design and delivery; Constructive alignment; Active Learning; Transparent course design. 
  • Continuous communication: A series of weekly announcements to all students in the section highlighting the activities and coursework to complete in that week. 
  • Monitoring: CTRL Midterm Course Analysis; Clinics (one-on-one 10-minute meetings to discuss individual academic progress and discuss the way forward. Use academic warnings. 

To view the output of Juan’s students, check out Juan’s YouTube Channel and MacroEcon class presentations.

Sue Bahk taught Microeconomic Theory, one of the core first year doctoral courses. “For me, the biggest joy I get from teaching is in the moments when I see students’ faces turn from ‘puzzling’ to ‘understanding.’ In our zoom classroom this semester though, it was hard to see their faces and harder to tell if they were following well. Without seeming them all, I had to rely on their questions as they only clue to tell if I need to slow down or speed up. I was more afraid of silent moments during the class and was more stressed to determine what is a good amount and level of materials for each class. With more experience of remote teaching, however, I was able to see some benefits of it. The flexibility that online classes can offer is cool. I sometimes had students from different locations, travelling, and even outside on a sunny day. The class recordings were available for those students who could not ‘be’ in the class for various reasons. Overall, it was a valuable experience for me to learn that remote teaching is an available tool with its own benefits. The lack of face-to-face interactions with students was the most difficult aspect of teaching during the pandemic, which I will not miss when we are able to return to campus.”