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The fourth annual Diverse Economics Conference (DivEc) was hosted on Friday, October 21 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Facilitated by the Richmond Fed’s Economic Education and Research department and co-sponsored by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business and the University of Richmond Robins School of Business, the conference featured diverse economics professionals and highlighted the wide range of career paths available in the field.

More than 125 business students and recent graduates from colleges and universities across the mid-Atlantic were in attendance, including nearly 30 from VCU. Professor Leslie Stratton and Associate Professor Christopher Herrington, both faculty in the VCU Business Department of Economics, were involved in organizing the event.

The conference began with a networking lunch and welcoming remarks from VCU Business Dean Naomi E. Boyd, Ph.D. and Richmond Business Dean Miguel (Mickey) Quiñones, Ph.D. In addressing the audience, Boyd reiterated the importance of economics at the most fundamental level.

“Economics is the basis of everything we do in business and beyond,” said Boyd. “The fact that you all are here today and able to interact with these incredible economists from so many different backgrounds is an enormous opportunity.”

DivEc keynote speaker Dana Peterson, Chief Economist & Center Leader of Economy, Strategy & Finance at The Conference Board, mapped out her career as an economist during her presentation, having spent time both in government and the private sector. She shared stories and advice for students preparing to enter the field, particularly in regards to being a diverse voice in the room.

“Having many different voices, backgrounds and perspectives means better economics, stronger growth and a better world,” said Peterson. “That’s why it’s so important for each of you — regardless of who you are and where you come from — to have your voice heard in the economics profession.” 

Following Peterson’s keynote, DivEc welcomed three diverse professionals for a “Economics in Practice” panel discussion: Jevay Grooms, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics at Howard University; Shakun Mago Ph.D., professor of economics and Joseph A. Jennings Chair in Business at the University of Richmond; and Faraz Usmani, Ph.D., applied microeconomist and researcher at Mathematica. The panel was moderated by Kartik Athreya, EVP and Director of Research at the Richmond Fed.

The panel focused on what a career in economics might look like through the lens of diverse professionals in the field. Each shared their personal career journey thus far and spoke to their specializations, including environmental economics, health economics and behavioral economics. 

“Economics can be used to solve social issues. It can be used to address inequalities. It can be used to advance healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa. The opportunities are endless,” said Grooms.

“In terms of application, what economics teaches you is problem solving and analytical skills,” said Mago. “Those are universal skills. They will never go away. You can apply economics to anything you want, and it’s exactly that: anything you want it to be.”

Attendees had the opportunity to participate in roundtable discussions during the final portion of the conference, narrowing in on differences between the public/private sector, the Federal Reserve and graduate school.

For more information about VCU Business, visit the School of Business website. For a complete list of upcoming VCU Business events, visit the events page.


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