William Evans Cultivates Students’ Passions for Research and Scholarship

Author: Joanna Basile

William Evans

It is not part of the regular curriculum, but William Evans is the kind of professor who goes the extra mile so his students can, too—that’s why he created a special course for students interested in submitting their research to a University-wide competition.

The Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Economics and an expert in labor economics, public finance, and health economics, Evans works with the students one-on-one in a small class setting to conduct statistical research and analysis to examine a contemporary social problem.

At semester’s end, the students are prepared to write a research paper considered “ready for publication” in a peer-reviewed academic journal—the standard of excellence demanded by the Bernoulli Awards competition.

“At the end of the course, students have the tools to conduct quality empirical research and can step out of the class and into a project that resembles what researchers do in academia, an NGO, the government, or the private sector,” Evans says. “This pushes past just being a classroom experience and gives students the opportunity to do something different. The award then helps foster this engagement by rewarding students who are inquisitive in this dimension.”

Evans’ goal is to push students to achieve beyond the classroom, and he hopes the experience students get from the Bernoulli class shows them they are capable of high-level scholarship that can help them succeed in many careers.

“I think the class and the award are important, because, for many students, it is their first serious research experience,” Evans says. “An excellent predictor of whether students go into graduate school is whether they’ve had undergraduate research experience. This can help students decide whether a research career is for them. Two students from the class a few years ago are now applying to graduate school, and I hope their experiences from the class were helpful in generating their interest in research.”

Two of Evans’ past students have also won Bernoulli Awards, and he hopes to continue that trend during the spring 2011 semester when he teaches the course again.

“The class is fun, because the students are bright and energetic, and, most importantly, the students who are in the class are there because they want to write an empirical research paper—which makes all the difference in the world,” Evans says. “The class is also exciting for me, because I enjoy the research process, and it’s great watching the students find out for themselves why research is fun.”

Sponsored by the Department of Economics, the Bernoulli Awards competition is open to all undergraduates at Notre Dame.

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