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Armed with plentiful research experience, Thuy Lan Nguyen ’07 pursues Ph.D. in economics — by Danielle Ward ’08

As much as Thuy Lan Nguyen ’07 enjoyed her time in the economics department at Lafayette, much of the inspiration for her decision to pursue graduate studies can be attributed to a book. The Elusive Quest for Growth by William Easterly is about how poor countries in the tropics could attain the standards of living of European and North American countries. The book particularly inspired Nguyen, a native of Vietnam, to build upon her education in economics and study for a Ph.D in the field.

A mathematics-economics major, Nguyen researched developing nations as part of her thesis research her senior year . She worked with James DeVault, associate professor of economics and business, to investigate links between the growth of developing nations and the environment.

Her experience with individualized research allowed Nguyen to acclimate to a less structured program of study at George Washington University. Her fellowship enabled her to spend her days studying microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics.

“[Graduate school] is not so hectic like a day at Lafayette. It’s mostly individual work; I have my own time and schedule,” she says.

Nguyen had plenty of experience with individual work at Lafayette. In addition to her honors thesis, she worked on three EXCEL projects. She studied corporate mergers with Donald Chambers, Walter E. Hanson/KPMG Professor of Business and Finance. She worked with Chris Ruebeck, assistant professor of economics and business, researching why computer products are pulled from the market. She also researched student attitudes toward learning approaches with Sheila Handy, assistant professor of economics and business.

Although Nguyen adjusted easily to George Washington, she found herself missing the community feel of Lafayette in her first few weeks. She describes George Washington University as having “customer service” departments in each discipline, which took a while for her to get used to. She also misses the extra services that Lafayette provides. “I came to realize how much Lafayette has for students in facilities: the gym, the classes, and the computer labs,” she says.

Although acclimating to a big university had its problems, Nguyen says that Lafayette prepared her well for the leap. She says, “I got adjusted to GW pretty fast since the way we are taught at Lafayette makes us adaptable to a new environment.”

Nguyen credits Lafayette and her thesis work in helping her prepare for her graduate research. “The thesis work with Professor DeVault also helped me get the intuition much faster as the classes here emphasize a lot in math. A good intuition always helps to understand the material,” she says.

It also will aid her in the challenging task of choosing a topic for her dissertation. “The most difficult [aspect of my studies] is that I have to find a topic that is in the frontier of research and write an interesting, yet important and applicable to the real world, dissertation,” she says. “After all, economics is the study of how to allocate scarce resources.”

Nguyen transfered to Columbia University this fall to continue her studies in economics. She hopes to become a professor of economics at a liberal arts college like Lafayette. She also plans on continuing her research on developing countries.

Danielle Ward ’08, an English graduate, is working as a project specialist for Pearson Education in Boston. This is an updated version of an article she wrote as an intern with the Office of Public Information.

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