E-CONnect Fall 2021

University of Waterloo Economics Department Newsletter


Chair’s Welcome 

A warm welcome everyone! I am happy to present you with our 2021 newsletter edition.

The last time I wrote to you COVID was still somewhat new, our heads were spinning from attempts to adjust to rapidly changing circumstances and information, and we were somewhat proud to have managed fairly well at that point, all things considered.

By now, COVID is getting very old indeed, we are challenged by new variants ... and we are still working from home. We have welcomed a whole new cohort of students virtually. We have taught virtually, examined virtually, met virtually, and sent another group off virtually into a virtual world. I have literally had enough of virtual!

Of course, there are positive sides to everything -- for instance, we had excellent attendance at our graduation celebrations and send-offs, where the virtual setting reduces the marginal cost of attending! For those of you who participated in those events, please let us know what worked, what did not, and how we could further improve the experience for you and your guests. For the 2021/22 academic year, the University’s new fully connected rooms open up the exciting potential for mixed live/virtual events, and your feedback will help make these even better.

We are now on the fourth term of fully online/remote delivery, and fall term will still be predominantly online for undergraduate students. We have learned a lot and refined the experience considerably. Initially, we broke high grade weight assessments into many smaller pieces in order to keep our students engaged and reduce the stress around one big assessment. As economics teaches us, what may be sensible for one may not be good in aggregate:  everyone ended up doing weekly assignments, quizzes, discussion boards, etc., and for five courses that adds up quickly! I hope that by now we have achieved a happier balance. I would like to acknowledge all the helping hands who have made remote learning possible and hopefully more bearable and productive - from CEL and CTE specialists to the co-op students who were hired and trained to help with LEARN programming and various tasks related to online delivery. They provided valuable help and insights as to what might work from the student perspective.

Finally, I want to share a couple of retirements and changes in the department: After 30 years of service as Graduate Coordinator (and did we ever celebrate that milestone in the fall!) Pat Shaw will have retired by the time you read this. On the faculty side, John Burbidge and Sue Horton are ‘riding into the sunset’, as it were. We thank them all for their service and dedication and wish them the very best for that next stage. This leads me to welcome Maureen Stafford, who will move into Pat’s position, and to report that Lynn Skelly took over from Becky Moore last fall.

I hope you will enjoy this newsletter and stay in touch with your department and each other!

All the best,

Lutz-Alexander Busch

Lutz-Alexander Busch

(photo credit: Barb Bloemhof)

 

Guest Alumnus Visit from Raveel Afzaal

In the 2020-2021 academic year, we were extremely fortunate to have a virtual guest visit from alumnus Raveel Afzaal of Next Hydrogen Corporation, who took time away from innovating in clean hydrogen energy to sit down virtually with Dr. Bloemhof and share his fascinating career path, from graduating with degrees in Math and Economics to being president of a world leading company. Every student taking the Senior Honours Essay in Economics had the opportunity to hear about how these achievements began long before coming to his studies, with diverse interests that a kind parent channeled into studies at the University of Waterloo, an institution that was head and shoulders above the rest of his choices. After all the leadership experiences that Raveel engaged in at UW, it follows naturally that leadership would be a large part of his current role at Next Hydrogen, and that mentorship would be part of his legacy to the Economics Department. Thank you for taking time with us, and encouraging us to set goals that ignite our passion, and inspiring us to work on them!


What We’re Writing

Our sports economics course is very popular. It turns out that economics is a terrific framework to explore and answer questions of interest to sports fans, and using sports as a sandbox to apply the workhorse concepts of Economics 101 brings them alive. Professor Van de Waal has written a Canadian textbook, Economics and the Sports Industry: Theory and Applications. It provides a comprehensive look at the many ways economics can shed light on all kinds of questions about sports. Congratulations, Professor Van de Waal, on your contribution to sports economics!

Corey Van De Waal

(photo credit: Mona Van de Waal)

 

Researching the Pandemic

By Barb Bloemhof

During the past year, faculty experts in the department have been investigating how work has changed as physical distancing necessitated working from home. Some types of mainly unskilled work across the labour market were furloughed immediately to keep people safe. Waterloo Arts undergraduate students looking for a spring co-op experience in March 2020 nonetheless saw nearly 90% employment despite some of those opportunities being withdrawn due to the lockdown.

The University of Waterloo moved its own work nimbly online. For some of the things we do, the online environment called for a more thoughtful approach. Connecting with students, providing academic advice, fostering their learning and even celebrating graduation are some of the most satisfying work we do, even online and subject to bandwidth limitations that occasionally kept us from seeing each other’s faces.

Assessing the impact of shocks is a major part of the economist’s comparative advantage, and a pandemic certainly qualifies as an important shock to understand. Our faculty members made valuable contributions to understanding how Canada after March 2020 was different from before, in terms of the impacts of society’s choices and policies, the responses of workers in labour markets, and new opportunities for investments in productivity-enhancing technologies. Be sure to visit their research pages and Twitter feeds to see the economic knowledge being created about the pandemic.


Update from the UW Economics Society 

The Economics Society’s mission is to provide students with infrastructure and tools for collaborative engagement, support, and learning. We aim to provide social and academic events throughout the year that contribute to the student experience and promote networking and learning opportunities.

Although this past year may have been challenging both academically and socially for many students, as UW Economics Society we were eager to widen our friendly, diligent, and aspiring community to support Econ students through virtual school and co-op terms. Together with our passionate executive team members, we organized virtual academic and social events including investment workshops, grad school info sessions, prof mixers, trivia nights, and alumni panels. We stepped up our social media accounts striving to stay connected and bring together econ students regardless of their time zone. We have also created many original articles and bi-weekly economic newsletters focused on recent economic changes and developments.

Virtual first year event

Our Virtual First Year Event 2020-2021 (photo courtesy of UWES)

 

For the upcoming Fall 2021 term, we are thrilled to welcome new Economics students into our community and to offer more events and resources. We are planning to host many of our favorite academic and social events like investment workshops, panels, and prof mixers again this year as well. We are also working with the Economics department, our academic advisors and professors, to launch a new mentorship program for 2nd-year students to provide incoming 2A students with a platform to communicate and interact with fellow/upper year Economics students. Through this initiative, we hope to develop a stronger sense of community within the Economics Department while enhancing the overall student experience.

The last day we were all on campus, the UW Economics Society hosted a Prof Mixer. We would have never expected that 24 hours later the university would close! We hope we can all see each other again soon, and hopefully host in-person events in the upcoming academic year.

We are very excited for the upcoming year, and we encourage those who are interested in learning more about us to check out our Facebook page, Instagram, as well as our website.

If you have any questions about the society or have any feedback you would like to share, please reach out to us at: uw.economics.society@gmail.com.

Sincerely,

Christina Salomone & Zulekyha Gasimova

University of Waterloo Economics Society (UWES) Co-Presidents

UWES group photo.

With fond hopes of returning to the way we were in this photo from pre-pandemic times as soon as it is safe to do so! (photo courtesy of UWES)


Scholarships: We’re proud of UW Econ!

The Jacqueline Armstrong Gates Scholarship in Economics

It is a pleasure to honour an in-course student who demonstrates outstanding academic performance early in their studies. Last Fall 2020, thanks to the remarkable gift of the 2017 Arts Alumni Achievement Award winner and outstanding alumni mentor, Jacqueline Armstrong Gates (BA '91, Political Science), the department named Sophie Chu as the first recipient of this annual scholarship in recognition of her superior cumulative academic excellence. Sophie is now in her third year Honours Economics (Co-op). We thank Ms. Armstrong Gates for her generosity in support of our deserving students!

The Kenneth Stollery Memorial Graduate Award

The Kenneth Stollery Memorial Graduate Award was established in memory of professor Ken Stollery, a long time professor of the department of economics, who passed away in 2005. The award is awarded to a graduate student enrolled in the Masters or PhD program in the department of economics who demonstrates academic excellence and financial need. This award is made possible by donations from family, friends, alumni, faculty and staff. Congratulations to two of our students who were this year’s recipients!

The Nihar and Mina Bose Graduate Scholarship in Economics 

The Nihar and Mina Bose Graduate Scholarship in Economics was created in 2018 through the generosity of Professor Sukesh Ghosh and Mrs. Nandita Ghosh in honour of Professor Ghosh’s late uncle and aunt, Nihar and Mina Bose. The scholarship awards a graduate student in the Department of Economics based on academic achievement and financial need.  Congratulations to this year’s recipient.


Congratulations to our top students in the class of 2021!

Graduate Awards

We are extremely proud of our Masters and Doctoral students! At the recent 2020-2021 Graduate Awards Ceremony, we were pleased to be able to recognize some of our students’ outstanding achievements in the core areas of economic investigation. Kudos to all the winners!

Achievement in Econometrics

Jung-Hyun (Jason) Kim and Jared Sandler

Achievement in Microeconomic Theory

Zijian Li and Luxman Nadarajah

Achievement in Macroeconomics

Huayi Liu and Jaykumar Parmar

Undergraduate Awards

Congratulations to all our undergraduates! At the recent (virtual) 2020-2021 Undergraduate Convocation Awards Ceremony, it was a pleasure to recognize some of our students’ excellent academic achievements.

Departmental Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement (Arts)

Each academic year, the Faculty of Arts asks each department to select one of their top graduating students as the recipient of the Department Award. The 2020-2021 Department Award Recipient is Zhengluo Zhang who graduated in June from the Mathematical Economics program.

Mathematical Economics Award

This award is presented to a top graduating student who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement in the Honours Mathematical Economics major. The 2020-2021 Honours Mathematical Economics Award Recipient is Yinuo Zhao (Mathematical Economics).

Honours Economics Award

This award is presented to a top graduating student who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement in the Honours Economics major. The 2020-2021 Honours Economics Award Recipient is Jonathan Shantz (Honours Economics).

2 + 2 Achievement Award

This award is presented to the top graduating student from the Economics 2 + 2 program.  The 2020-2021 2 + 2 Achievement Award Recipient is Chuhui Ruan (Honours Economics Intensive Specialization).

Senior Honours Essay Award

This award is presented to a student in an Honours Economics program who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement in the Senior Honours Essay (ECON 472). The 2020-2021 Senior Honours Essay Award Recipient is Abhinav Dholepat (Honours Economics Intensive Specialization).  The winning paper is entitled “Does spending increase the odds of being elected? An analysis of Canadian general elections from 2004 to 2015.”

Valedictorian

Sincere congratulations are extended to Vinutna Margam for her outstanding academic accomplishments and on delivering a very memorable, humorous and touching 2021 Department of Economics Valedictorian Speech at our awards ceremony!


More to share about the department!

We congratulate Dr. Roy Brouwer, Professor and Executive Director of the Water Institute since 2016, on receiving the Arts Award for Excellence in Research, for significant research impact in advancing our understanding of agricultural water futures in Canada, among other contributions.

Dr. Chris Riddell is the co-winner of the 2021 Purvis Prize, awarded at the most recent Canadian Economics Association meetings June. The editorial board of Canadian Public Policy, on which Dr. Curtis sits as an advisor, also won for their work reviewing pandemic research rigorously and nimbly. A number of Waterloo economists provided rigorous and nimble peer review in this effort – congratulations all!


Robert Mundell (1932-2021)

Nobel prize winning economist and former chair of the University of Waterloo Economics Department Robert Mundell died on 4 April 2021 at the age of 88. One of his contributions to economics underpins the Mundell-Fleming model, which provides predictions about the efficacy of monetary and fiscal policy in an open economy. Canada’s early experiences with a floating exchange rate regime during the 1950s and early 1960s shaped his thinking on the responsiveness of international capital flows to interest rate changes. The Mundell-Fleming model was published in 1962, the same year that Canada went back to fixed exchange rates. After an appointment at the International Monetary Fund, where it was rumoured that economic insights frequently appeared to him while he was swimming, Mundell returned to the country of his birth and headed our department just as the University of Waterloo Act 1972 was being passed. He went back to the United States after two years, but not before Canada moved back to a flexible exchange rate regime. His monetarist bona fides are well reflected in his later work, particularly in contributions to the understanding of currency unions and supply side economics.

Robert MundellPhoto credit: University of Waterloo Library, Special Collections & Archives. Kitchener-Waterloo Record Photographic Negative Collection (April 26, 1972; photographer unknown). Used with permission; no further reproduction is allowed.

 

Our Graduate Students Presenting Their Work in Progress

Usually we use this space to thank our generous alumni donors for their support in covering travel costs to the annual Canadian Economics Association meetings. This year, however, the meetings were held remotely. Aidi Yu presented her paper “Who Lives Where? Spatial Sorting, Commuting and Wage Inequality.” Aidi’s doctoral work is supervised by Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Stacey.

Online mediation provided doctoral candidate Zehua Pan with the opportunity to present at the 26th Annual Conference of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. The paper, co-authored with Dr. Brouwer and Zhengxiao Leng (Masters of Arts in Economics candidate), is entitled “Benefits of Improved Water Quality: Hedonic Pricing and Spatial Dependence.”

If you would like to contribute funding to future travel for graduate students when it's safe to attend conferences in person again, please contact Professor Lutz-Alexander Busch or Phoebe Wong – and thank you in advance for making this important experience accessible to young scholars.


Professors Professing, or “Did they really say that?” (collected by Corey Van de Waal)

“I have written the midterm questions on the board.  I’m not sure that there is a solution to any of them but do your best.” – Lutz-Alexander Busch (graduate microeconomics)

“In the past few years, there seems to be a trend of students dropping this course.” – Javier Cuenca (intermediate microeconomics)

“The number of unemployed people doesn’t count people living in their parents’ basement ‘finding themselves’.” – Anindya Sen (public economics)

“You may have a Renoir painting in your living room, but it won’t get you on the bus.” – Mary Ann Vaughan (principles of macroeconomics)

“When you get 250 people in a class, some of whom are in love with each other, you’ve got to have rules.” – Mary Ann Vaughan (principles of macroeconomics)

“A common mistake that all economics students make, no matter if you’re in ECON 101, 201, 301, 401, graduate, or some bozo in PhD, is that they will stare at this graph and say this DOT is the price. This DOT is not the price!” – Emanuel Carvalho (principles of microeconomics)

“How do we know that Santa is an econometrician?  He is always saying ‘H0: H0: H0: ’” – Trien Nguyen (economic statistics)

[just before the first midterm starts] “It’s good to see all the regulars here today, as for the rest of you, welcome to ECON 254…I’ll be your instructor this term.” – Corey Van de Waal (economics of sport)

“Dot Com companies think ‘Oh yeah, Dot Com, New Business Model, we’re invincible!’. No, no, no, ladies and gentlemen. Warning, warning, danger, danger!  There is NO New Business Model.” – Larry Smith (principles of microeconomics)

“When people are indifferent between two options, we assume they do whatever is most convenient for the theory.” – Phil Curry (advanced microeconomic theory)

“How the heck did we end up talking about hyperinflation in World of Warcraft?” – Matthew Doyle (advanced macroeconomic theory)

[reading a group contract clause] “We will not steal each other’s boy/girlfriends” – Geoff Malleck (entrepreneurship)

“Eight-thirty classes suck for me, too!” – Corey Van de Waal (principles of economics)


Word Search Puzzle: It’s Contest Time!

Image of Puzzle ChallengeDownload and print out this year’s puzzle (PDF).  The first three correctly solved puzzles will receive a cool Economics prize, just like WD, YH and CG who won last year!

(Contest is closed to people in the Economics Department and their families – sorry! But you can still do the puzzle!)

Want to Connect? 

  • speech bubbleThe seminar webpage shows all upcoming and past visiting speakers. Everyone is welcome to attend our seminars – please email for details of how to join our virtual seminars.
  • Have exciting news to share? We’d love to hear what you are up to!
  • Interested in giving a talk? We also love welcoming our alumnae/i to our classes! (And with remote learning, it’s simple!)
  • Want to be involved in networking or economic events? Please just ask!
  • Want to contribute to our activities? Your donations help fund awards and lectures that make a difference. Please consider reaching out to support us – and thank you!

To connect, please email Lutz-Alexander Busch. To donate, please contact Kim Bardwell or donate online.

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