Profession: Senior Research Associate at the Federal Reserve Bank
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
What are you doing now?
I graduated from Pomona less than two months ago, and it's hard to believe how much has happened since. I'm currently using my economics degree from Pomona to work as a senior research associate at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. I'm using all the skills I developed at Pomona's Econ Department in my new position. I got minors in mathematics and computer science while in Claremont, and I use those every day to work on economic research. When I do statistical analysis of economic or Census data, I use skills I learned in all three of those disciplines.
How did you get there?
One of the greatest things about going to such a small college is that the professors are always accessible. I started assisting professors with their research my sophomore year at Pomona, and I never stopped. Before coming to Pomona, I didn't think that research would be very interesting to me. I had heard that at a small liberal arts college, I would be able to grab research opportunities, so I asked Professor Gary Smith if he was doing anything that I could help with. He was, and we ultimately published two papers together, one on an investments strategy called dollar cost averaging and another on a statistical technique called principal components analysis. That single conversation started the chain of events that led me to where I am now. I got my toe in the water with economic research, and from there I was able to work a summer internship in Kansas City, Missouri.
This position in Philadelphia follows on the heels of my internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. I found out about that opportunity by talking to a number of professors and students at Pomona, because I knew I wanted to spend the summer before my senior year doing research at either another university or at a Federal Reserve branch. I had a fantastic time there, and it got me excited about returning to the Fed after graduation. It’s exciting for me to work on a mix of academic research and policy work, and see how economic analysis can apply to the real world.
How did Pomona prepare you?
Besides finding close relationships with professors and research opportunities on campus, I worked on a SURP [Summer Undergraduate Research Program] in the Politics Department while I lived in Philadelphia the summer before my junior year at Pomona. [Students who are selected for Pomona’s SURP receive funding for summer research on or off campus.] Then the fall semester of my junior year I studied "abroad" as an exchange student at Swarthmore College outside Philadelphia. Before college, I had never been to Philly, but the city kept coming up as the place for me to be during my junior year, and I completely fell for it. So when my senior year started, I put together the internship experience I had in the Fed with the SURP and exchange experience I had in Philadelphia. I applied to work at the Philly Fed, and landed my dream job.
Philadelphia is a long way from my hometown of Phoenix, but I was much more excited than nervous about moving to the other side of the country. Pomona helped me to grow as a person, to open my mind to new and sometimes scary experiences, and to find the "learning edge" of my comfort zone (although our beautiful Claremont weather did little to prepare me for snowy winters!). I've fallen in love with this city because of the opportunity that Pomona gave me to spend time here.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I plan to stay in Philadelphia for several years at least, and then to go to grad school to pursue a Ph.D. in economics. After that, I don't know where exactly I'll be or what exactly I'll do. But I do know that the foundation I developed at Pomona—the drive to learn, the drive to focus, and the drive to always push myself to grow—will serve me wherever I am.
Any advice for prospective or current students?
If you have something that you passionately want to study, study it. But don’t marry yourself to perfectly executing the idea of college that you had in high school. Keep taking new classes in random subjects, and try new things all the time. I knew I wanted to study economics, and declared my major in the spring of my freshman year. But when I got to Pomona I thought I also wanted to study chemistry, and that idea went out the window after my first semester. Instead, I took my first computer science class, and realized that that was what I wanted to spend time on. I started a new sport (ultimate Frisbee) my junior year while I was away on an exchange program, and it was both scary and rewarding to try something new and meet a whole new group of people (even if I was terrible as a player when I started). It’s never too late to branch out, and Pomona gives you the chance to go deep on the thing you love the most while maintaining a breadth of interests and activities. Take advantage of that!