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When mathematics-economics graduate Justas Staisiunas ’04 sought employment with the international accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young, he found that his undergraduate research and published findings in Economic Inquiry set him apart from other applicants.

Staisiunas co-authored a paper with his EXCEL Scholars collaborator Susan Averett, professor and head of economics and business, and his independent study adviser Howard Bodenhorn, professor of mathematics. EXCEL research and independent studies are among several major programs that have made Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. The College sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year; 40 students were accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

The researchers combined the fields of economic history and labor economics while investigating the efficiency of labor markets before formal unemployment insurance. They used New Jersey population census data from the late 1880s to study manufacturing laborer compensation during the period. They found that workers at higher risk of unemployment received a premium to compensate for the inconsistency of work. Staisiunas notes that such compensation could be expected for agricultural and construction workers, but their article is one of the few that provides evidence of similar compensation for manufacturing workers.

Staisiunas is a second-year staff member in Ernst & Young’s financial services advisory group in New York City. For half the year, he works in the derivatives valuation group, which provides support to hundreds of the firm’s audits throughout the country. His responsibilities include understanding and performing the valuation of clients’ various financial contracts, which range from simple options to exotic derivatives. Staisiunas spends the rest of the year on consulting assignments, helping clients with derivatives operations and accounting.

“The research project with Professors Averett and Bodenhorn was the closest experience in college to what I now do on a day-to-day basis,” he says. “It was also one of my most memorable academic experiences while at Lafayette. Although my work is not directly related to our research, it is definitely of the same quantitative and analytical nature. The quantitative skills I gained through this project singled me out from the large pool of people with accounting background at my firm and helped me gain a position in the derivatives group. The publication itself is a valuable asset that I hope will help me pursue academic goals in the future.”

Averett, who often includes students in her research, has been honored with nine awards for her teaching excellence; she was the inaugural recipient of the James E. Lennertz Prize for Exceptional Teaching and Mentoring. She is coauthor of the textbook Women and the Economy: Family, Work, and Pay and is the author or coauthor of 19 journal articles. She has made 26 conference presentations. Most recently, she presented her research on the influence that siblings have over one another at the 60th International Atlantic Economic Society Conference in New York City, and the work is set for publication in Economic Inquiry. She is a member of American Economic Association, Population Association of America, and Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession.

An expert in American economic and financial history, law, economics, and industrial organization, Bodenhorn is the author of State Banking in Early America: A New Economic History and A History of Banking in Antebellum America: Financial Markets and Economic Development in an Age of Nation Building. He is an editorial board member of Financial History Review and Journal of Economic History. He has published more than 30 journal articles and presented at numerous conferences and seminars. He has been a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research since 2001 and is author of 10 NBER working papers. He also is co-editor of a Yale University Press book series, a member of Economic History Association’s Alice Hanson Jones Prize Committee, and serves on EHA’s Audit and Budget Committee. He is a past recipient of Student Government’s Superior Teaching Award, the Otto Eckstein Prize for best article in Eastern Economic Journal, and the Arthur H. Cole Award for best article in Journal of Economic History.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles