Three Notre Dame Economics Graduate Students Honored

Author: Carrie Gates

In recognition of her research, Ning Jia, a Ph.D. student in the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Economics, recently received a dissertation grant from the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Two other graduate students in the department have also distinguished themselves by landing competitive research positions in the federal government. Kimberly Berg recently completed a dissertation internship at the Federal Reserve System’s Board of Governors, while Kevin Rinz is currently working as a staff economist at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

“We are very proud of our students’ accomplishments,” says Michael Pries, associate professor and director of graduate studies for the Department of Economics. “Ning’s fellowship allows her the time and resources necessary to complete her very interesting dissertation research. Kim and Kevin’s positions offer them unique opportunities to see how economic policy is made, while at the same time developing and extending their dissertation research.

“All three of these opportunities were earned after competitive application processes, which reflects very strongly on not only the students, but also on our graduate program more generally.”

Education in Economics

Ning Jia

Jia, a fifth-year Ph.D. student, researches the economics of education, as well as labor economics and public economics. In particular, she is examining the effects of merit scholarship programs on educational attainment and immigrant-native comparisons in STEM fields in college.

“As the first person in my family to attend college, I firmly believe in the value of education,” Jia says. “It is this belief that motivated me to come to the U.S. to pursue further education here.”

Jia chose the graduate program in economics at Notre Dame, she says, because of the quality of the faculty. “Our program is small, so students receive a lot of advice from the professors. I really enjoy working with the faculty—especially my adviser, Abbie Wozniak, who has been a great mentor to me.”

The dissertation grant, Jia says, is “a big encouragement.” She hopes her dissertation will “shed new insights on the value of education and inform policy makers of effective ways to promote individuals’ education attainment.”

International Exchange Rates

Kimberly Berg

Berg’s research focuses on international macroeconomics and finance, with an emphasis on exchange rates. In particular, she is interested in understanding how a country’s monetary policy and its associated exchange rate regime impact its welfare.

Her dissertation internship at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System was “an incredible experience,” she says.

“As an intern, I had the privilege of presenting my research, attending seminars, and discussing economic issues with both external speakers and Board economists.”

Berg, who plans to complete her degree in Spring 2014, credits the Notre Dame faculty with helping her find and attain the internship at the Federal Reserve.

“The faculty members are always accessible,” Berg says. “They not only have supported me on my personal research, but they also have given me the unique opportunity to work on joint research projects with them.

“Additionally, they have encouraged me to pursue external opportunities, such as presenting at conferences and seeking internships.”

The Effect of Government Policies

Kevin Rinz

Rinz studies applied microeconomics, specifically labor and public economics. He chose these areas, he says, “because they provide great tools for understanding how a wide variety of government policies affect people.”

His research at Notre Dame explores the effects of right-to-work laws on wages.

As a fourth-year Ph.D. student, Rinz says he particularly appreciates the openness of his economics professors.

“In addition to providing outstanding in-class instruction, they’ve been available, encouraging, and supportive,” he says. “They have also offered me good advice on my research.”

Rinz will continue working as a staff economist at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers throughout the 2013-14 academic year, returning to the University in July 2014.

During his time in Washington, D.C., he says he has enjoyed seeing firsthand “how policy processes work from the inside.” Rinz adds, “It’s also been encouraging to see how smart and dedicated my colleagues in the Obama administration are.

“Since I still have several months left here, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for research ideas to bring back to school next fall.”

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Originally published by Carrie Gates at on December 17, 2013.