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2014 Summer Fellowship Practicum Program

By Natalia Smirnova, Assistant Director of Research and Education & Michelle Ryan, Education Programs Coordinator

“AIER provides a great learning environment where people always have a passionate discussion on economic and other social issues.”

AIER’s Summer Fellowship Practicum is an experiential learning opportunity for students interested in applied economic research. The program is competitive, with an 18 percent acceptance rate, and draws students from some of the best universities and programs across the country.

During the eight-week Summer Fellowship Practicum, interns are matched with AIER researchers and immerse themselves in current AIER research projects. The young scholars’ work is significant and is central to the successful completion of each project.

Research topics ran the gamut of AIER projects. Some interns helped with the development of an Employment Destination Index, others aided in the evaluation of our indicators of Business-Cycle Conditions, and still others worked on curriculum development on financial literacy for victims of domestic violence. During the internship, each student presented their methodology, analysis, and findings. In addition to this formal presentation, each student produced a final product.

This summer, the 10 students accepted to the program included one PhD candidate, two students with master’s degrees who were entering PhD programs, three students in master’s programs, and four undergraduates. The interns were enrolled in programs that ranged from agribusiness to applied economics and political economy. They studied at a range of American school locations, including Washington State, North Dakota, California, Texas, Minnesota and Massachusetts; and they represented five foreign countries–Ukraine, Burma, China, Thailand, and India in addition to the United States.

“I had been taught a lot of economic models, but this was my first experience trying to earnestly use a model to clarify a real-world problem.”

In addition to their research activities, the interns attend seminars given by guest speakers and participate in extracurricular cultural activities. This year’s seminar topics covered interstate migration, the renminbi, ethics in economics, the Fed’s history, sweatshops in the global economy, the intersection of securitization and bankruptcy, and data analytics. Interns also participated in mathematical theory seminars delivered by program observer and AIER member, Dr. Kenneth Driessel.

Outside the office, the interns explored downtown Great Barrington, walked the Freedom Trail in Boston, and celebrated the Fourth of July at the opening of the Clark Museum in Williamstown. They also visited the historic Saratoga Race Track at their annual College Day event. Both interns and staff enjoyed a taste of the various cultures on campus through a series of home-cooked dinners prepared by different students. This year, Persian, Italian and East Asian cuisines were on the menu.

At the conclusion of the program, the interns were unanimous in their praise of the research aspect of the program. Students specifically identified their improved knowledge and use of specific research methodologies and analytical skills. In addition, they noted the value of being engaged in a positive, professional, and productive work environment.

“In addition to my own research, an active engagement in other activities such as educational seminars … lead to a climate of intellectual excitement among the interns and researchers.”

091214 Practicum

L-R Front row: Kenneth Driessel, Shyamala Sethuram, Pukitta Chunsuttiwat, Vivien Zhang, Nuoya Li
L – R Back row: Lucy Kompaniyets, Eric Morris, Sam Green, Ethan Krohn, Aka Kyaw Min Maw, Valentina Connell, Bridget Hughes, (not pictured) Rustin Partow

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