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Why I Majored in Economics

Bryan Diangson ’21

Economics is all about decisions and, for me, majoring in economics was an easy one. I love the fact that economics offers me a mix of quantitative analysis and qualitative thinking, while allowing me to work on meaningful projects that affect everyone in real time. This, along with the career versatility that economics offers, is why I chose to major in the field.

Our economics department is fantastic and filled with wonderful, caring, and brilliant professors. Though classes can be challenging at times, our department really strives to prepare students for anything that the world throws at them. This dedication to students is something that has been significant to my college experience.

I have been fortunate enough to take my economics major into the real world by interning at CBRE Global Investors this summer. So far, it has been such a rewarding experience. At CBRE GI, I spend my time working on different investments, across all of the asset classes, the fund strategies, and the risk-return spectrum. I have definitely been able to implement my economics knowledge while working, as the firm is always concerned with current and future macroeconomic trends.

Advice to incoming students: Even if you aren’t sure about economics or your passion lies elsewhere, I highly recommend taking at least Principles of Macroeconomics (Econ 51) course because it will give you a great foundation and help you in many aspects of your career and life!

Wesley Chang ’21

Economics at Pomona College is an extremely multidisciplinary major that emphasizes both analytical and mathematical thinking through examinations of micro and macro issues. With many of the courses in this major ranging from healthcare to entrepreneurship to corporate finance, I am able to go off into many different career paths such as banking, consulting, policy-making, research, healthcare and many more. I believe that this is a specialized major within the liberal arts education.

There are many chances for experimental learning in this major. Starting from the most basic microeconomic course, students are able to learn from market and behavioral experiments within the classroom. Continuing on to intermediate classes such as behavioral economics, accounting, or entrepreneurship classes, students continue to have community partnership opportunities learning and forming relationships with live experiments, professionals, and even neighboring businesses. Finally, at the upper level, students are able to form independent studies with professors, perhaps making investment portfolios with professors and researchers.

I have participated in an internship with CRCM Ventures, a venture capital firm where I have had the chance to practice my research, analytical and communication skills that I have developed through all of my courses and experiences with the economics department. For research, I have created pitch desks and market analysis for potential investments for the firm. For the analytical side, I have had the chance to build abstract models and representations of future financial situations and risks. For communication, I have had the chance to build my network through start-up events and interviews with potential investments.

The economics major, partnered with the Quantitative Skills Center (QSC), has developed an economics cohort program (Pomona Scholars of Math) to help foster a successful transition for first-year, first-generation/low-income students. This academic cohort features weekly group meetings with faculty and staff around the campus, peer mentors, individual and group advising sessions, and preselected cohort course selections.  This cohort is a great way for students to find a fit in a STEM major early on in their college experience.

Payal Kachru ’21

Economics is a broad subject with focuses on business, finance, theory, research, and even math. Classes and electives have both made me see how truly interdisciplinary this subject can be.

I took an introductory class to Macroeconomics in my Spring semester of my freshman year to get an area requirement out of the way. However, when I got to learn the material, the theory, and its implications for real world, I realized that I truly enjoyed what I was learning. My professor at the time, Professor Goel, really influenced my desire to be an Economics major. She, and later other professors, really showed me how interdisciplinary economics can be. Any facet of an economy is sensitive to politics and human behaviors, and we can predict the outcomes of these actions by coupling big data with basic theory in the short and long-run. Not only is the major practical, but its breadth allows for anyone to view the world more holistically and flexibly allows one to also find their niche.

The faculty that I’ve had the pleasure learn and work with are some of the very people that made me feel like I belong at Pomona. While this department continues to push me to become better in my ability to analyze on both a micro and macro level, they’ve also taught me how to complement quantitative analysis with qualitative thought. Truly, the professors in this department make me want to go outside of my comfort zone and explore topics I wouldn’t have explored in a traditional classroom setting. Each professor has their own research and specific strengths across the field, and that allows me to explore all my options and hone skills across different areas.

This summer, I act as a research assistant to Professor Manisha Goel and Professor Michelle Zemel, where I am helping them study the real economic outcomes of demonetization practices that happened in India in 2016. The goal is to analyze the extent at which firms were able to overcome their credit constraints and how that was, or was not, translated to better firm performance and real macroeconomic outcomes, such as changes to employment, profits, and other factors that correspond the status of an economy. Collaborating with other researchers, we are looking at microdata of firms’ liabilities, profits, assets, and loaning activities. We then use this information to track and determine trends in the relationship between the amount of loans given out, interest rates, and generally what was done with an influx of capital that banks received upon demonetization. We’re hoping to analyze the impacts of this policy, as well as external actions performed by India’s central bank, to see what caused the overall net real outcomes of the Indian economy.

Simultaneously, I’m also a Finance and Marketing Intern over the summer, where my job primarily consists of analyzing census-level data to target a specific market audience for my firm’s estate planning financial services and other firm-specific services. With that data, another intern and myself will help initialize the branch’s marketing campaign that is specific to the local area and its clientele.

When I came to Pomona, the thought of even majoring in Economics never crossed my mind. I was lucky to take an introductory class with an amazing professor who made me passionate about the subject. I strongly encourage everyone to take introductory classes across multiple disciplines because you never know where your true passion may be! Also, I think an introductory economics course is a staple for everyone. Economics is a subject area that impacts everyone’s life, and to be able to have some sort of understanding, even on a macro level, is worth knowing about for now and for the future.

Lucie Abele ’22

I chose to major in economics, because I enjoy learning about human decision-making and how our decisions directly impact our communities and environment. I also appreciate the extreme versatility within the field. Economics is the perfect crossover of research and analysis with human activity. Economic theory reaches into the fields of both STEM and social science, involving studies of areas such as math, politics, and psychology. Additionally, economic theory allows for quantitative analysis and qualitative examination of human and economic interaction in complimentary fields like law, business, finance, consulting, health and athletics.

For example, in Professor Stephen Marks’ Law and Economics class, we learned to evaluate legal cases from the perspectives of both economic and legal theory. I found the deliberate intertwining of these two fields intriguing – while they seem to be at odds, economic theory factors into legal theory and decision-making far more prominently than I would have expected. In Professor Marks’ course, I was able to explore in depth the decisions of various Supreme Court cases. I conducted detailed research regarding the legal and economic analysis of Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York, diving into the legal issues of the case, the economic factors, and the social and public policy implications of the majority decision. Exploring topics such as these on a case-by-case basis showed me how applicable the study of economics is to so many other fields and opened my eyes to the myriad of areas and opportunities into which an economics major could lead.

Additionally, the economics faculty at Pomona is incredible. Economics is a subject that impacts everyone, and understanding economics, even at an introductory level, is helpful in one’s day-to-day life. The gifted scholars in this department not only teach Economic theory and its implications, but they also foster a successful learning environment and assist students in and out of the classroom. With them and with my Economics peers, I have made great friendships and have deeply enjoyed learning in this inviting space.

Virgil Munyemana ’22

Coming into college, I knew I was interested in entrepreneurship. My sister recommended I do economics given its association with business and finance, so I honestly took economics courses on a whim at first. However, as I delved deeper into the major, I've realized how interdisciplinary the field is and all the different fields it could be used in, from policy work to academic research. I’ve even seen it used in social justice contexts, which is especially important given the renewed push for racial justice we’ve seen in the past summer. Economics can take you anywhere you want to go, it just depends on how you want to use it.

The professors are all very in love with the courses they teach and their enthusiasm shows, especially in office hours. They always try to make themselves as available as possible, which has been really helpful for me coming from a less privileged background. In addition, the economics department offers a cohort specifically for underrepresented students in the economics field to have a support system. Without this cohort, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the major as much as I did in my first year.

During the summer after my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to have an internship at a private equity firm called the Vistria Group. They buy companies that work in healthcare, education, and/or financial services and try to improve their business models. I was working in the healthcare team and was tasked with creating an investment thesis for the durable medical equipment market, which is made up of things like glucose monitors, ventilators, and other products for chronic conditions. I had to use data from sources such as the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services and the U.S. Census Bureau to support my argument, allowing me to use some of my economics knowledge in a real world situation. It was a really valuable experience and I also felt like I was doing some good in the world at the same time.

The economics department put out a very comprehensive statement in support of Black Lives Matter and acknowledged the role that economics can have in perpetuating these issues, as well as solving them. I appreciate the department taking the time to do this and am hopeful they will incorporate this mindset into the way classes are taught. I’m happy to be in a major where I feel supported.

Helena Ong ’22

Economics embodies what it means to be interdisciplinary in both its foundational principles and its applications. Taking the introductory economics courses revealed how the discipline served as a baseline for understanding so much about human behaviors, interactions and facets of society. The upper division course selection exposes you to just how complex and diverse the field of study is with classes such as Corporate Finance, Behavioral Economics, and Environmental Economics that have personally helped me to understand how Economics is applicable to so many different fields.

The Economics Department at Pomona houses some of the most supportive and inspirational faculty I have met. Throughout my 10 economics courses, I have been able to learn from professors who have encouraged me through classes, office hours, research projects and even lunches. Whenever I had questions about my academic journey at Pomona or my internships and job opportunities, my economics professors provided me with invaluable insight and experience that has positively shaped my time at Pomona. It is so evident that the professors at the Economics Department not only are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about what they teach, they also have a genuinely vested interest in their students’ lives. Whether it was helping me choose between internship offers or releasing an important statement about economics’ role in social issues, the faculty in the department are a huge reason I studied economics at Pomona!

I have been able to apply the knowledge from classes at several of my summer projects and internships. Working at the USDA, I was able to utilize trade and tariff theory I learned in my macroeconomics courses to help quantitatively model the U.S.-China trade-war in 2019. I have also been able to extend the financial and business side of economics at my internship in asset management with Alliance Bernstein where I worked to manage risk in institutional clients’ portfolios and my internship in Trading with JP Morgan where I will research markets for certain asset classes.

Kevin Wu ’23

There’s an old story that goes something like this: A physicist, a chemist, and an economist are stranded on a desert island, and they’re famished. Then a can of soup washes ashore. Chicken noodle soup let’s say.

But, famished as they are, our three professionals have no way to open the can. So, they put their brains to the problem. The physicist says, “We could drop it from the top of that tree over there until it breaks open.” The chemist says, “We could build a fire and sit the can in the flames until it bursts open.” The two squabble a bit, until the economist says “No, no, no. Come on, guys, you’d lose most of the soup. Let's do this. First, assume we have a can opener...”

Basically, I like to tell people I chose to major in economics so that I could assume and model my way out of any problem. Joking aside, economics is the intersection of math, psychology and decision making that can describe a wide array of experiences and phenomena that we hardly notice in our daily comings and goings—phenomena that are nonetheless incredibly revealing and insightful. It was both the wide breath and media coverage of the subject that initially drew me in, in addition to the fact that my high school economics teachers were really cool. Thanks Mr. Geers, et al.

Economics not only offers the opportunity to play with math, numbers and models, but it also enables us to better understand and recognize embedded assumptions in stories and models that drive how people think and interact. It marries stories and reality to models and numbers that we can digest and understand to get a better picture of what the heck is going on in the world around us.

As with any Pomona major, my most memorable experiences have been speaking with alumni, students and professors or working with them to get a better grasp of a specific problem, subject, or career path. There is a lot of content to cover in economics and some topics may be both mathematically and intuitively challenging, but when you sit down on zoom, and have an entire whiteboard filled with abstracts of Ash Ketchum, bizarre scribbles, and half-completed graphs—among many other things—and you’ve spent time with others really digesting a tough problem or discussing current events and plans for the future...that’s when you say to yourself: this is awesome.

For future students, all I have to say is try it out! Economics is so broad that you could find a niche in any of its verticals. What you learn along the way are the problem-solving mechanisms that will carry over to any occupation or club or obstacle you experience in the future, and faculty are really willing to sit down and help.

My Econstats companion and I last semester wrote a topic on the relationship between COVID-19 cases and the impact on the restaurant industry for different geographical relationships in the U.S. We were given the tools and the freedom to explore a variety of topics we were interested in and turned it into something we could pin to the refrigerator at the end of the year--which was really cool. It was like: Hey mom! I’m not just sitting around eating shrimp crackers during college. I’m doing something with my life.

One thing I’m really excited about—but kind of slow to complete—is an economic analysis of South Park (a TV show I’m into), SouthParkonomics if you will. It’s fun just taking some of the content learned in class and trying to apply in some quirky places to see how things hold up/what they look like. Taking theory to application, so they say. There’s a lot of that type of stuff at Pomona (not only in the econ department) where people are taking what they like to do and put it into something tangible. I didn’t really get it when I first got to campus, but it’s kind of contagious, so now I kind of do.      

If you ever have any questions, always feel free to reach out, you will find that more than often people will have a lot to give, even to complete strangers. Reach out to others in your classes and form a team to bounce ideas off and work with, building that team will be critical to your success. As with anything though, it takes time, so even if things aren’t going well—if you can even take one inch forward or find somebody to talk to—you’ve really gone a mile in accomplishing things. Fight On!