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DivEc20 Encourages Students to Explore the Economics Field

a speaker from the 2020 Diverse Economics Conference

Economics professionals from across the nation gathered on Zoom and YouTube last week during the second annual Diverse Economics Conference (#DivEc20) hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond to educate and encourage undergraduate women and students of color to consider opportunities in the field of economics.

Starting with opening messages from Becky Bareford, the Richmond Fed’s first vice president and chief operating officer, and Miguel “Mickey” Quiñones, dean of the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond, the 100-plus students who participated in this year’s virtual conference received candid advice, lessons learned, tips on specific courses of study and insight on the day-to-day experiences of various individuals.

“It was great to see the conference come together as an opportunity for students to hear directly from economists at different stages of their careers who are using their economics backgrounds in a wide variety of ways,” said Sarah Gunn, director of economic education for the Richmond Fed. “I hope the students were able to see that economics truly is for everyone.”

The conference, which was a collaboration between the Richmond Fed, the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond and the Undergraduate Women in Economics Challenge, was designed to interest students in the economics profession earlier in their studies, at the undergraduate level.

Presenters included Richmond Fed economists, recruiters and Discover Analysts, a regional economist with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, several economics professors and a business owner who shared her journey from staff economist to entrepreneur.

Keynote speaker, Amanda Bayer, an economics professor at Swarthmore College and visiting senior advisor at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C., gave conference participants an overview of the need for diversity in the profession. She also shared how the field allows one to make a difference, by studying the behavior of and increasing the well-being of a broad swath of people.

“Economists think hard about how not to waste resources and how to help others,” Bayer said.

By diversifying the field of economics, “There is an opportunity to ask new questions and obtain a greater range of insights and perspectives to contribute to the conversation. … It provides for innovation,” she said.

Gunn was pleased with the turnout and with the feedback from participating students, who had opportunities during the event to network in small-group breakout sessions and to ask questions or provide comments via a conference app.

“While hosting the conference virtually had its challenges, we were able to engage with more students than we could have in person,” Gunn said. “And the takeaways from the conference can reach even more students through the videos and materials we’ve posted online. We look forward to continuing our efforts to make economics a more diverse and welcoming field.”

The livestream of the conference is available on the Richmond Fed’s YouTube channel for viewing. More resources from the conference are available on the Bank’s Diverse Economics webpage


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