Advice for Graduate School


Kate Chambers

Could you describe your current job?

"I am currently completing my Masters in Public Affairs at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. This summer I am interning at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a policy think tank in Washington, D.C. While here I am conducting research on poverty effects on child development. From the Center's website: "The Center conducts research and analysis to help shape public debates over proposed budget and tax policies and to help ensure that policymakers consider the needs of low-income families and individuals in these debates. We also develop policy options to alleviate poverty."

Do you have any advice for current economic students?

"I think it all depends on what you want to do with your economics degree. Overall, I think students who receive an economics degree from college are generally looked upon favorably because it's considered one of the tougher subject areas within the realm of "social sciences."

More specifically, I can only really speak to my experience in policy research. I believe one of the primary reasons why I was able to get my job in a think-tank as a research assistant right out of college, was because I had experience using SAS, and that I had done my own research. If students are interested in conducting research at a think-tank or advocacy center, I would highly recommend making the most of your econometrics class at Hartwick by not only doing what is required, but taking the time to learn how to do some minor programming in some form of statistical software (SAS and Stata are the most useful) and be sure to use those packages in your thesis work. If you can, take your econometrics class in your junior year so you have your whole senior year to work on your thesis or be able to say you've had a year experience with SAS or some other statistical package by the time you start interviewing.

I was lucky enough at Hartwick to do some very in-depth (for undergraduate work) research. You have a wealth of resources in your professors; if you're stuck on a thesis idea or want to do some research work outside of the classroom, talk to them early and often. They will know where the 'value-added' can be in your research so you're doing something useful and innovative for a particular topic area, not just the status-quo.

Finally, your professors know people. Let them know what you're interested in doing once you graduate, they may have some leads. Dr. Ficano put me in touch with the person who eventually got me an interview at the place I ended up working at!

Hope that helps! As I said, this type of advice is really catered towards those who are thinking about doing research or advocacy work after school, because this is predominately what I'm familiar with, but showing initiative and being able to work independently outside the classroom also displays qualities that many employees and graduate schools are interested in."