I enjoy working together with colleagues across different fields in economics. I also enjoy interacting and working with colleagues across the spectrum of disciplines. My leadership experience spans a range of positions, including departmental leadership, university leadership, and leadership in the profession. To be a leader of one’s own peers, it is necessary to have a collaborative approach to shared governance. In this regard, I have a long record of soliciting, discussing, and evaluating input from a variety of stakeholders. I strive to develop consensus even if this sometimes takes longer, because effective implementation is facilitated with greater stakeholder buy-in. My values include fair treatment for everyone, collaborative goal-setting, shared governance, clear and respectful communication, and honoring commitments.
A summary of some of my leadership accomplishments classified into broad categories is included below.
PhD Program Design
During my tenure as Associate Chair and Director of Graduate Programs for Economics, as part of my overall vision to improve academic achievement and lead the department to greater excellence, I designed, developed, and implemented an extensive redesign of the PhD program in economics.
The main goals were to revamp the structure of core courses in the PhD program so that students can take qualifying exams at the end of their first year and move earlier to specializations and research, to maintain excellence in foundational training, to provide more incentives and milestones along the path to final dissertation, and to provide a comprehensive roadmap to students from the beginning of their program journey to its end.
The proposal was formulated with broad input from stakeholders. I examined different configurations for organizing core courses with faculty, solicited and incorporated graduate student input, evaluated related proposals, studied doctoral program structures at other research universities, and incorporated unique aspects of economics at KU. The final proposal received broad support among faculty, staff, and students and achieved the main goals.
The implementation of the proposal was carried out with broad input from stakeholders as well. The new program and its implementation have been highly praised both within the department and outside and received high praise in the external review of the department. Moreover, these program design contributions may provide a framework for other departments considering PhD program improvements.
As Associate Chair and Director of Graduate Studies, the initiatives I led and supported were implemented successfully leading to many measurable improvements. Some of these are as follows.
Achieved full funding for every PhD student in years 1-5 of the program in 2020. (This was a first for the program, at least in recent memory.)
Provided focused guidance to facilitate PhD completions leading to the lowest number on record of PhD students remaining in years six and beyond (2 students in 2020; down from 11 in 2017)
Reduced median PhD time-to-degree from 6.2 years (2010-12) to 5.3 years (2018-20)
Increased graduate student conference travel grants from $750 to $1,000 per year per student
Led the department’s nomination process for the annual university-wide competition for summer research scholarships for PhD students. Economics students won four scholarships in four years; two by female students, two by male students; one each in applied economics, econometrics, macroeconomics, and microeconomics
Led the department's nomination process in 2019 for the prestigious Self Graduate Fellowship, with an economics student receiving the fellowship after a gap of 7 years
Coordinated the department's nomination to win a minority-focused university graduate fellowship for a PhD student in 2020
Student Success and Development
Designed and implemented a new GTA evaluation system to assess graduate student preparation to serve as primary instructors for undergraduate courses. The new system made the process consistent and transparent, advanced professional development of graduate students, provided students opportunities to develop teaching portfolios in a thoughtful manner before graduation, and benefited graduate and undergraduate program administration. It led to more dependable coverage of courses and more flexibility in assigning graduate students their desired courses. The new system garnered praise from graduate students and in the external review of the department.
Focused on development of all PhD students in the program using a mechanism to meet with each student every semester to discuss and advise on progress. A supportive approach provided early identification of obstacles to progress and led to more workable solutions. It reduced the number of students beyond year 5 in the program and reduced median time-to-graduation.
Provided PhD students a comprehensive roadmap with annual milestones and incentives for continuing progress. This included summer support for students after their first year and after their fourth year in the program, summer teaching opportunities for other students, grants for graduate student conference travel, and professional development seminars for all students.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging
My commitment to working with diverse groups and populations stems from a first-hand awareness of the daily challenges faced by minorities, immigrants, and other underrepresented groups. Their input may be solicited more selectively, their voices may be less audible, and they may feel more vulnerable expressing non-majority views. I strive for an inclusive environment where diversity has a better chance to flourish.
An important purpose of an inclusive classroom is to help students feel that they belong in the classroom and have the potential to succeed. I encourage and develop classroom activities designed to engage all students. Another important component of a student’s development is through advising and research opportunities. I embrace inclusiveness in this dimension as well.
I have taught and advised a very large number of students in the past twenty years. My approach to advising includes making myself available for consultation to students at all levels regardless of their background. In order to facilitate greater engagement, I participated in lunch discussions with students of different backgrounds in the undergraduate Economics club, contributed to undergraduate research overview sessions and made time to answer individual questions after the event, and spent countless hours advising students from many different parts of the world and in different disciplines. Similarly, I strive to foster inclusiveness in research by providing research opportunities to a broad group of undergraduate and graduate students. My students and advisees are a diverse group, from many different continents, including different cultures, genders, and religions.
I have contributed on hiring committees as a diversity advocate and supported the hiring of multiple minority candidates in faculty positions. I am proud to contribute in important ways to an economics department with greater diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender, geographic representation, and religion. There is more work to do in this direction.
Faculty and Staff Development
Advised and developed department leaders, and recruited and mentored faculty, staff, and students
Advised chair with non-economics background by providing a detailed overview of department administration and organization and of the structure of the economics profession, and developed new data analytics to guide administrative decision-making
Trained faculty member to lead the PhD admissions committee by providing steady and hands-on guidance as we navigated together the entire process over the course of a year, from admissions outreach to application evaluation to funding decisions and final recruiting
Guided Director of Undergraduate Studies in developing program indicators to promote evidence-based administrative decision-making
Participated in hiring of new staff graduate academic advisor and guided them in graduate program processes in economics
Devoted large amounts of time to participate intensively in hiring exceptional junior faculty in different fields in economics and continue to devote more time to mentor junior faculty, students, and minorities
In order to enhance global outreach, I worked with the university's office of communications to evaluate the department's online presence. Based on the analysis and recommendations, I led the redesign of the online presence of the PhD program, redesigned faculty presence online, and directed and stabilized the department's presence in social media.
I led the development of new databases of economics contacts at national universities, midwestern universities, and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and the distribution of PhD program information to these institutions. We also expanded student outreach using the GRE search service. Moreover, to further increase outreach to underrepresented minorities, I implemented distribution of PhD program information in the McNair program and SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) conference and we hosted McNair scholars as well. These activities helped the department secure a minority-focused university graduate fellowship.
Within the university, I increased outreach by meeting regularly with students at all levels regardless of their background. In order to facilitate greater engagement, I met with students in the undergraduate Economics club, contributed to undergraduate research overview sessions, discussed individual study and individual research projects with numerous graduate and undergraduate students, and spent a large number of hours advising students from many different parts of the world and in different disciplines.
Devoted a large amount of time to organize and chair a 12-week long seminar series during summer 2020 in which faculty gave research presentations with the goal of keeping graduate students engaged with research over the summer