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Reflections on AIER’s 2016 Summer Fellowship

Tanglewood 1

Picture: AIER Summer Fellows at Tanglewood.
Front row (L to R) Michael Cooper, Ruonan Song, Lan Thi Ngoc Nguyen, Bradley Oerth, Anna Connell; Back row (L to R) Nathaniel Burke, Cheikhou Kane, Zhandos Ybrayev, Ryan Smith, Max Gulker, Brandon Turk, Michelle Ryan

 

Our seventieth Summer Student Fellowship Program came to a close on August 12, and we are pleased with all our fellows accomplished. This spring, we received 63 applications, and selected a group of 10 students from various colleges and universities around the country.

As we do each year, we carefully examined each applicant’s skills and interests, course work, and practical experience. We ended up with a diverse group in terms of skill sets, fields of study, and educational backgrounds. We applied their skills to our research and to experimenting with ideas for online tools.

Each student was assigned to work with an AIER researcher. Some were selected based on either their familiarity with the concepts, or their quantitative skills, such as the technical ability to build a database or perform economic analyses. Some students, however, found themselves challenged by an assignment to a research project that was unfamiliar to them. We think that an opportunity to tackle something new and researching something outside of one’s comfort zone is typical for an actual workplace practice. This was no longer a continuation of their classroom experience where the syllabus specifies all the details of the course, or where one can select to not even enroll in the class during the “shopping” period at the start of the semester. What we provided was a real-life environment with fluid ideas, open discussion, and hard deadlines. And we knew that the students were up for the task.

Students worked on the topics that are part of our traditional research agenda, such as our business cycle model, Everyday Price Index, inflation scorecard, as well as personal finance. What they got was an introduction to a new data set, a new econometric technique, an additional article on a topic of interest, or more programming skills.

The summer fellows brought great energy to our campus, and the staff and interns learned a lot from each other.

In addition to the research part of the fellowship, students attended our Summer Speaker Series of lectures presented by AIER researchers, as well as research seminars after the talks to delve deeper into the topics.

We also took the fellows to cultural gems of the Berkshires: Tanglewood, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and the Shakespeare & Company theater group.

At the debriefing meetings, which we hold at the conclusion of the fellowship with each student and their supervisor, we heard that it was tough at first for students to adjust to AIER’s research demands. However, as the fellowship progressed, they felt independent and empowered to make their own decisions about the breadth and depth of their research. At the end, fellows produced many useful essays, analyses, and tools.

All students agreed that AIER’s Summer Student Fellowship contributed to their educational growth and career aspirations. We are happy to make a positive impact on young researchers, and to continue to develop a cadre of people interested in economics and economic research.

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