Annual Economics Department Awards for 2019-2020

The Department normally holds an Awards Luncheon ceremony in early May, in which the awardees are recognized and celebrated in person. Because of the pandemic, this year there was no luncheon. However, awards were made and we want to have the achievements of our faculty and students that these awards recognize noted on this page. This year’s awards are as follows. Hearty congratulations to all awardees!

Student Awards

Norman and Ruth Sun Award

Recipient: Veronika Konovalova

This award is given annually to the graduating senior whose academic achievements and service to the Economics Department and Temple University best exemplify the ideals of the department.

This year’s winner is Veronika Konovalova. Veronika is a MathEcon major who is currently enrolled in our 4+1 BA/MA Program. She has served as a peer instructor, been an active member of the Temple Economic Society and the Women in Economics group. She has played a part in pretty much everything that has happened in the department over the last 3-4 years.

Undergraduate Writing Prize

Recipients: Collin Wardius, Steven Hamilton, Han Hong Gia (Julie) Pham, Joe Salzer

This year brought an unusual outpouring of outstanding undergraduate research. In the words of Undergraduate Director Moritz Ritter:
“This year’s crop of papers is the best we have ever had. Each one of them could have been a winner, and all of them have the potential to end up as published papers in good journals.”

The Second Prize Winners are:

Steven Hamilton
“Social Welfare Functions: Suggestions for Social Planning” (Advisor: Dimitrios Diamantaras)

Han Hong Gia (Julie) Pham
“Business Cycles and Adolescent Mental Health: Evidence from Suicide Rates”
(Advisor: Catherine Maclean)

Joe Salzer
“Institutional Responses to State and Local Appropriations” (Advisor: Douglas Webber)

The First Prize Winner is:

Collin Wardius
“The Relationship Between Teacher Turnover and Student Performance: Evidence from Pennsylvania’s Publicly Funded Schools”
(Advisor: William Stull)

Outstanding teacher of record among graduate students

Recipient: Cynthia Cao

Winning this award is something of a habit for Cynthia, as it is the second time in a row that she has received this award. Cynthia has accepted a visiting position at Villanova University for the coming academic year.

Top Teaching Assistant

Recipient: Luke Mafrica

As was the case for Cynthia Cao, Luke has now won this prize for two consecutive years. This year, his award was for his work in Economics 1102, Microeconomics Principles.

PhD Students who Defended their Dissertations in 2019-2020

Afrouz Azadikhah Jahromi; dissertation advisor: Brant Callaway
David Ratigan; dissertation advisor: Doug Webber
Emmanuel Tsyawo; dissertation advisor: Brantly Callaway
Eric Wilkinson; dissertation advisor Catherine Maclean

Fox School’s highest GPA in the Economics major

Recipient: Erica Hall

Starting in July, Erica will be working for Citygroup in its Public Finance Department here in Philadelphia.

CLA and CST Economics and Mathematical Economics students graduating with distinction in major

Benjamin Aitoumeziane
Michael McMahon
Joseph Conroy
Daniel Ramey
Joseph Donahue
Sean Starosta
Jack Fang
Isaiah Taylor
Harsimran Gill
Thanh Tran
Olivia Huczko
Collin Wardius
Tyler Hyatt
Holly Zimmerman

Faculty Awards

Outstanding Graduate Teaching by a Full-time Faculty Member

Recipient: Dr. Charles Swanson

Dr. Swanson receives this award for his many years of single-handed service to the graduate program as the only macroeconomics instructor and mentor during our lean decade prior to moving to CLA.

Outstanding Service by a Full-time Faculty Member

Recipient: Dr. Shreyasee Das

Dr. Das receives this award for her stellar, all-hands-on-deck service (including “happy hours”) as online consultant to everyone in the department (students as well as faculty) during the past semester.

Outstanding Research Paper by a Full-time Faculty Member

Recipient: Dr. Douglas Webber

Dr. Webber receives this award for his co-authored paper “The Returns to College Persistence for Marginal Students,” published in the Journal of Labor Economics showing the importance of college completion for weak students.

Outstanding Teaching by an Adjunct Instructor

Recipient: Dr. John McDonald

Dr. McDonald receives this award for his highly successful effort to bring economic history back into the undergraduate curriculum — a significant “missing piece” in our undergraduate offerings for over two decades.

Members of the Temple Economic Society attended NABE 2020

Members of TES attended the 36th Policy Conference of the National Association for Business Economics in Washington, DC, early this week. Here is a summary of the event provided by Tommy Walsh, member of the TES Executive Board.

TES members with Richard Clarida

In total, 16 students attended. 15 went on Monday, 10 attended Tuesday. Some highlights of the trip were:

·        Global Fiscal Policy Perspectives hosted by Gita Gopinath, Chief Economist, International Monetary Fund and Keith Hall, Professor of Practice, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University

·        The Many Versions of Medicare-for-All hosted by John Holahan, Institute Fellow, Urban Institute and Greg Poulsen, SVP Policy, Intermountain Healthcare

·         Economic Impact and Financial Risks of Climate Change hosted by Erik Ens, Senior Policy Advisor, Bank of Canada and Mekala Krishnan, Senior Fellow, McKinsey Global Institute and James Nixon, Chief European Economist, Oxford Economics. This talk was very scary and gave very detailed descriptions of the reproductions of missing our target goals.

·        Exploring Modern Monetary Theory was especially popular by our students and lots of students had questions on MMT, way above my paygrade to answer. I think it would be interesting for more professors to briefly discuss this topic as every student was incredibly curious about the practicality. This talk was done by Stephanie Kelton, Professor of Public Policy and Economics, Stony Brook University.

·        Mark Zandi and Charlie Cook, Founder, The Cook Political Report had an electric talk on the 2020 election. They gave a very interesting (and often contradictory) takes on the role the economy plays in the upcoming election.

·        Assessing and Addressing the Student Loan Overhang was a breakout session that almost every student attended. It was hosted by Karen Dynan, Professor of the Practice of Economics, Harvard University, Kamila Sommer, Group Manager, Flow of Funds Section, Federal Reserve Board, and Sam Khater, Vice President and Chief Economist, Economic & Housing Research, Freddie Mac. They concluded that paying for everyone’s debt would be “insanely expensive” and paying for a partial amount of everyone’s college debt would be “also insanely expensive”.

·        Increasing Electric Vehicle Adoption: The Intersection of Battery Technology, Charging Infrastructure, and Public Policy was hosted by Jennifer Hatch, Visiting Scholar, Boston University City Planning and Urban Affairs, Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, CBE, Senior Resident Fellow, Climate and Energy Program, Third Way and Anne Smart, Vice President of Public Policy, ChargePoint. This talk was able to complement the Economic Impact and Financial Risks of Climate Change that we saw the day before with a focus on the EV market.

·        To end the event, we met with Richard Clarida and then watched him speak about the Board of Governors. It was interesting to meet him for a picture on the second day of 3% losses in the S&P and Dow. He seemed rather quiet when we met with him and I think that was related to the climate of the markets on Tuesday. His talk he mostly avoided answer questions directly but was able to give a good perspective on the thought process of the Board of Governors.

New faculty profile: Christopher Swann

Dr. Christopher Swann received his BA in Economics in 1972 at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He then received his Master’s in 1981 and his Ph.D in 1997 at Temple University.

Dr. Swann has presented at many conferences across the country including at the International Communications Forecasting Conference in San Francisco, California in 2002, the National Council on Compensation Insurance in Boca Raton, Florida in 2013, and the Association of Career Professionals in Philadelphia, PA in 2016.

Dr. Swann has 7 publications with his first one being, “Intermodal Competition in Local Exchange Markets,” included in the PAE Papers and Proceedings with David. G. Loomis in 2003, and his most recent being “Estimating the Impact of NABE Member Characteristics on Compensation,” published in Business Economics with Anessa Custovic in 2015.

Dr. Swann has teaching experience at West Chester University, Penn State, Drexel University, Villanova University, Cabrini College, and Temple University.

His past professional experiences include many different positions at Bell Atlantic (Verizon Communication) (1978-1994), Senior Economist at the U.S. Macroeconomic Service. (1997-1999), Senior Consultant at Telecom/Information Technology (2000-2005), and the Senior Advisor of Econsult Services, Inc (2015-Present).

In the past, Dr. Swann has served on the Board of Directors of National Association for Business Economics (NABE), and currently he holds the position of a member on the editorial board of Business Economics.

New faculty profile: Rhiannon Jerch

Dr. Rhiannon Jerch received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of Illinois in 2009. There, she also received her Master’s in applied Economics, and then continued her education at Cornell University where she received her Ph.D.

Dr. Jerch has been invited to give many presentations across the country including the NARSC Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon in 2015, the NTA Annual Conference on Taxation in New Orleans in 2017, the APPAM Annual Fall Conference in DC in 2018, and presentations at 8 different colleges in 2019.

Her awards include the American Studies Graduate Research Grant (2016) and the George F. Warren Award (2017) from Cornell University. Dr. Jerch has also received fellowships, including the Graduate Fellowship in 2013-14 from Cornell, and the C. Lowell Harris Dissertation Fellowship in 2017 from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Dr. Jerch has published “The Efficiency of Local Government: The Role of Privatization and Public Sector Unions” in the Journal of Public Economics in 2017. This was coauthored with Matthew E. Kahn and Shanjun Li. Currently, she is working on “The Local Consequences of Federal Mandates: Evidence from the Clean Water Act,” which is a job market paper, and “Road Rationing Policies and the Spatial Distribution of Wealth in Beijing,” with Panle Barwick, Shanjun Li, and Jing Wu.

In addition to teaching at Temple University, which she will start in January 2020, Dr. Jerch has taught 5 different courses at Cornell and 2 different courses at the University of Pennsylvania. Some of these include Intro to Econometrics (Cornell), Environmental and Resource Economics (Cornell), Urban Economics (Cornell), and a Research Seminar in Policy Analysis (UPenn). In addition to her undergrad courses, she has taught 2 graduate courses: Economics and the Environment (Cornell), and Economics for Social Policy (UPenn).

New faculty profile: Viviane Sanfelice

Dr. Sanfelice was awarded her Applied Mathematics degree at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil in 2008. She received her master’s degree in Economics at Fundac̃ao Get́ulio Vargas in 2010, and then she moved to the U.S. and ultimately received her Ph.D. at the University of Rochester.

During her time at University of Rochester, she was honored as the W. Allen Institute of Political Economy Fellow in 2016-2017, and the McKenzie Family Scholar in 2017-2018.

Dr. Sanfelice started teaching at University of Sao Paulo as a TA for Calc I and III. She then was a TA for Graduate Statistics in 2009, and assisted in teaching econometrics classes. At University of Rochester, she taught Undergraduate Econometrics.

Dr. Sanfelice has been the Technical Advisor at the Office of the Special Advisor in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has also worked in Washington D.C. as a Junior Professional Associate at the World Bank Group.

Viviane Sanfelice is currently working on “Impact of Firearm Apprehension on Criminal Activity, and has published “Weather Shocks and Health at Birth in Colombia,” in World Development and “The Relationship between Budget Amendments and Local Electoral Power,” in Journal of Development Economics.

Besides being a talented Economist, Dr. Sanfelice can speak Portuguese and Spanish alongside of English. She also knows Stata, Matlab, C/C++, and AcGIS.


  1. Looking through your CV, I see you know C/C++, Matlab, etc, and I was wondering which type of projects you have used these programs on, and how important you think learning programming is for an economist?

During my undergraduate I have learned how to program using C/C++. I haven’t really used this language later on, but for sure it provided a great foundation, making easier for me to use other programming software like Matlab for instance.

Several courses at the graduate level have as assignment the estimation of models that are not that standard and we usually used Matlab. I have also used it on my own research projects.

At the same time the ultimate goal is to get my estimation results. Then I try to not complicate and to use software that may not sound fancy such as Stata, but are practical for data cleaning and regressions.

Lately I have used ArcGIS quite frequently, which is not a programming language, but it is useful software for spatial analysis.

I think the best and probably only way to learn a programming language is by actually using it. Then, being a research assistant is always a good idea to get practice and experience. I have had some working experiences outside academia and they were very valuable in terms of learning data analysis and software.

I believe programming languages are powerful tools and knowing some is essential for an economist interested in empirical research. I would strongly recommend undergraduate students to invest time in learning a language and even taking a formal programming course such as data structures and algorithms or introduction to numerical analysis.

As economist we do not need to become sophisticated computer programmers. However knowing how to use these tools efficiently will save computer memory and time.

  1. Have you ever been to Philadelphia, and are you excited to live here?

Yes, I am very excited to live in Philadelphia. I have visited the city before. My husband was born in Philadelphia and when we started dating we took a trip there together. I like that it is a large city with lots of history but not overwhelming like New York or Sao Paulo can be.

  1. What can students expect from your class?

(I am responding this question having in mind that I am teaching undergraduate econometrics in fall 2019.)

Students can expect to learn useful tools in terms of methods and data to empirically study economic relationships. Attention is devoted to understanding the difference between correlation and causation in these relationships.

My goal is to make the course interesting and intuitive, and at the same time to teach solid skills about econometric methods.

At the end students should gain a better understanding of economic relationships and its estimation through the use of real-life examples, statistical techniques and computer software.

  1. Are you interested in teaching other economics courses in the future?

For sure, I would be happy to teach some field courses for undergraduates like development economics or applied econometrics for public policy. For graduate level it would be nice to teach a course on discrete choice models with application in applied microeconomics or a field course which explores the latest and most relevant research works on the topic.

New faculty profile: Olga A. Timoshenko

Olga A. Timoshenko

Dr. Timoshenko received her Economics degree at the University of Western Ontario in 2005. After receiving her masters there as well, she continued her education at Yale, receiving her Ph.D. in Economics.

In her time at Yale, she was a research assistant, and a Teaching Fellow for three different courses: international economics, intermediate microeconomics, and international trade. Her thesis for Yale was “Essays in Trade and Learning. She also received the Economic Growth Center Prize from 2006-2010.

Dr. Timoshenko has published her research in The Canadian Journal of Economics, Economics Letters, Journal of International Economics (From which she just won the Outstanding Reviewer Award), and others. She has also given many presentations, including presentations at the Canadian Economic Association, the Midwest International Trade Meeting, The European Trade Study Group.

Her research interest includes international trade, and macroeconomics, which for most of her works include trade.

She started teaching quite early by being a Teaching Assistant at the University of Western Ontario, later becoming an Assistant Professor at The George Washington University. This fall, Dr. Timoshenko is teaching an international trade course.


  1. Looking through your CV, I see you’re most interested in international trade. What are some of your favorite projects you have worked on dealing with this subject?

I often think about the role of information uncertainty in firms’ decisions. Due to a variety of reasons, firms do not always have complete information about the demand in foreign markets for their goods, about a potential popularity  of their products in markets. Yet, firms need to decide whether  to export or not, where to export, how much, which products to sell and at  which prices. As a result, many of my projects focus on modeling the decisions of firms under uncertainty. For example, in my recent project entitled “Uncertainty and Trade Elasticities” co-authored with Erick Sager at the Federal Reserve Board  we show that more firms enter more uncertain markets, but that  those  firms have on average smaller export sales compared to the behavior of the same firms in markets that could be characterized  by a more complete information structure.

  1. Had you ever been to Philadelphia before arriving at Temple U, and are you excited to live here?

I have briefly visited Philadelphia on a number of occasions, but I have never lived in Philadelphia to truly enjoy what the city has to offer.  I am looking forward to explore various museums, theaters, restaurants, and historical sites. My first stop will certainly be at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

  1. What can students expect from your class?

Students can expect an energetic and  motivated professor who is  keen on educating them on topics of intentional trade. Students can expect a lot of active learning activities such as group projects and educational games; a lot of work at the start and a high intellectual reward at the end.

  1. Are you interested in teaching other economics courses in the future?

Yes. I hope that, over time, as I discover what interests Temple students, I would be able to design a course that could address those interests. I hope to earn students’ excitement for my classes such that  by the end of the first course-registration day, my classes would get full and have a waiting list with many more students eager to register and learn.

Professor Leeds’s publication with an undergraduate student coauthor

Amy Nguyen, an undergraduate Honors student, worked with Professor Michael Leeds on a paper for her Honors project. Last month, this research article that ultimately came out of this project was published in the Journal of Sports Economics, under the title “Productivity, Rents, and the Salaries of Group of Five Football Coaches”. Here is the abstract of the paper:

“Standard labor market theory says that workers are paid their marginal revenue product (MRP). However, firm revenue is sometimes independent of the productivity of individual workers. This often occurs in professional sports, as the bulk of a team’s revenue comes from league-wide TV contracts negotiated years in advance. This is also true for head coaches at “Group of Five” schools, which form the second tier of college football programs. We show that a coach’s performance affects both his MRP and his bargaining power over the division of exogenous rents that accrue to his program.”

Economics Department Awards Luncheon 2019

On May 1st, 2019, the Department of Economics held their annual Awards Luncheon at the Estia Restaurant in Center City Philadelphia.

The ceremony opened with a short address from Department Chair, Professor Leeds.

The first award presented was the Student Professional Development Award to William Strahan.

The economics society was then acknowledged for their accomplishments. The members specifically recognized were Vincent DiMichele, Benjamin Ginsberg, Erica Hall, Veronika Konovalova, and Benjamin Salzer.

The Undergraduate Program Awards had many students being recognized.

CLA Distinction in Major Students: Mosammath Anjum, Kristopher Blazeski, Joshua Chen, Sean Dix, Steven Doncaster, Julia Flanagan, Geneva Heffernan, James Jackson, Evan Martin, Megan Maxwell, Frashiah Mwangi, Rebecca Neergaard, Benjamin Salzer, Nicholas Tarpey, Matthew Tkacik, and Caroline Lewis.

The Phi Beta Kappa Nominees included Alex Mark, Michael T. McMahon, Jacob Stoltzfus, and Collin Wardius.

The Student with the highest GPA as a Fox School Economics Major was Patrick Gleason.

The winner of The Norman and Ruth Sun Award in Writing was Steven Hamilton. The Honorable Mentions for this award were Evan Martin, Megan Maxwell, and Marie Shorokey.

The recipients of The Norman and Ruth Sun Memorial Award were Julia Flanagan from the College of Liberal Arts and Elinor Dittes from the Fox School.

The First Graduate Program Award announced was the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, received by Luke Mafrica.

Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student was received by Xiyue Cao.

The Third Year Ph.D. Student Writing Award was received by Thanh Lu for, “Medical  Marijuana and Household Spending: Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey.” Advisor: Dr. J. Catherine Maclean.

Five students were recognized for successfully defending their doctoral dissertations:

Weige Huang for, “Essays on Microeconometrics and Finance.” Advisor: Dr. Brantly Callaway

Melissa Oney for, “Three Essays in Health Economics.” Advisor: Dr. J. Catherine Maclean

Joseph Shinn for, “Three Essays of Labor, Health and Real Estate Economics.” Advisor: Dr. Michael Bognanno

Keisha Solomon for, “Three Essays on Health Economics.” Advisor: Dr. J. Catherine Maclean

Lulei Song for, “Three Essays on Macroeconomics and Banking.” Advisor: Dr. Pedro Silos

There were four faculty awards presented.

Outstanding Teaching by an Adjunct Professor was received by Dr. Joseph Shinn.

Outstanding Graduate Teaching by a Full-time Faculty Member was received by Professor Pedro Silos.

Outstanding Service by a Faculty Member was received by Professor Dimitrios Diamantaras

Outstanding Research Paper by a Faculty Member was received by Professor Dai Zusai.

Photos from the event can be seen here:

Text and photos by Kaitlin Flynn, edited by Dimitrios Diamantaras

Ph.D. Alumna Elizabeth Wheaton publishes a textbook and receives a teaching prize

Dr. Elizabeth Wheaton holding a copy of her textbook in the exhibits hall of the 2019 ASSA annual meetings.

Dr. Elizabeth (Beth) Wheaton, 2006 Ph.D. alumna, currently CEO at Equip the Saints and Economics Senior Lecturer at Southern Methodist University, celebrated two important achievements in this academic year. She had her book Economics of Human Rights published in the Fall and this April she was one of the two recipients of the 2019 SMU ALEC PAT “Pretty Amazing Teacher” Award, which honors professors who encourage their students to get the tutoring and academic training they need, challenges students to become better learners, and works in partnership with the SMU ALEC (Althshuler Learning Enhancement Center). We reached out to her about her textbook and she answered our questions as follows.

Q. What is the reason behind creating this book? What motivated you to create this book?

A. I saw an overlap in the needs of several different groups. Students ask me how they can best prepare to change the world. Nonprofit organizations and think tanks ask Equip the Saints (the nonprofit consulting organization I founded) for help with data collection and analysis in areas where social issues and economics connect. National and international organizations, researchers, and activists who find my research ask how they can access necessary research and gain insight.

I wrote The Economics of Human Rights to provide economics (and other) students with the training needed to work in interdisciplinary teams. The textbook teaches students how to view a social issue through the lens of economics and provides the foundational information needed to understand that issue so that they can use their economics skills to complement the world-changing team of which they are a part. Around 75% of the material is accessible to non-economics majors so the textbook can be used in political science, communications, human rights, and other studies.

I also wanted to encourage students to consider choosing economics as a major. Economics provides powerful tools that can be used to create positive change in the world.

Q. Do you think this book will make a difference in how people view human rights? Will they see it in more of an economics aspect? Why do you think discussing the use of economics in human rights is important?

A. I believe this book will make a difference in how people view human rights and how they view economics. I define economics as the science of choice when dealing with scarcity. The basis of each human rights violation is the choices of a person or group. In addition, each human right has multiple parts that are tied to monetary decisions. When we can determine the benefits and costs of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders, we can find ways to create incentives to change those decisions. Changing those incentives could lead to decreased violence and better lives.

Q. How did you first get into economics and why did you choose to major in it in college?

A. I earned a bachelor’s degree in international business and economics at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas and a Masters in international business and trade from Grambling State University. While working for an international finance company, I read about child labor and its ties to the production and consumption in developed countries. I realized that a Masters and Ph.D. in economics would provide me with the skills and status needed to make a real impact in the lives of marginalized people, so I went back to school at Temple University.

Q. Tell us about your time obtaining your Ph.D. and M.A. at Temple University.

A. I was out of school for several years before starting my schooling at Temple University. Fortunately, some of my fellow Ph.D. students were willing to tutor me to help me catch up with the skills I lacked. There was great camaradery among the economics Ph.D. students. I found the mentors I needed in Dr. Michael Leeds and Dr. Moshen Fardmanesh. These two gentlemen were instrumental in teaching me to become an economist and to do scientific research. The economics professors poured their knowledge into us.

Q. Are you working on any pieces right now?

A. My current project is rewriting the textbook in a reading style for professionals. I am also working on new research on the economics of gun violence.

Q. What do your colleagues and family think of your piece?

A. My family, friends, and colleagues have always been supportive of my work. They are proud of the textbook and the fact that I keep finding new ways to change the world in a positive way.

Interview by Oumaima Elaamerani.

Ellie Dittes, Economics Major, 2019 Diamond Award Winner

Portrait of Ellie Dittes

This year, the recipient of Temple’s Diamond Award was Fox economics major, Ellie Dittes.

The Diamond Award is the highest recognition given to an undergraduate at Temple University, and is for those who have shown exceptional leadership, academic achievement, and service to the University and community.

Ellie is a senior from Nashville, Tennessee. After she toured Temple as a high school freshman, she was attracted to the school’s positive vibe and moved to the Northeast.  She first stared off as an International business major, but then fell in love with economics and changed her major. Her first internship was at Bimbo Bakery, focusing on supply chain management. She then worked for Johnson and Johnson, and her most recent internship was with PWS. As for research, Ellie studied sports economics and did her own independent research on auction theory.

Ellie believes her work as the project administrator for Fox’s strategic planning process contributed most to her winning the Diamond award. With this process, Fox is working to redefine itself, and she supported this initiative immensely. Her leadership roles include being the executive VP of the college council, and she was in the Temple Student Government for Fox school. Alongside all of this, Ellie was a Diamond Peer Teacher for Professor Das’s Microeconomics class.

After graduation, Ellie will be stationed in Kosovo working for the Peace Corps in community development.

Ellie emphasizes the advantage of being a business student and being able to work closely with the faculty of the economics department in the College of Liberal Arts.

Profile of Ellie Dittes by Kaitlin Flynn.