Matthew Larsen smiles.

My research: My research lies within the domain of labor economics, with a primary focus on the economics of education. Within that field I have focused on a few areas. First, I have investigated how education markets function in the United States, with a focus on the expansion of school choice (charter schools, voucher schools, open enrollment districts, etc.). Second, I have worked to understand the impact of various accountability policies—policies aimed at incentivizing districts, schools, teachers, and students to improve. Accountability policies I have examined include closing schools, grade retention, and the use of exit exams in high school. Given the far-reaching and long-lasting effects of education and education policies, my interest lies in learning more about these effects in order to improve education policy in the future.

My Lafayette journey: As a grad student I really enjoyed both teaching and conducting research, which led me to seek a job that would emphasize both aspects. Despite having no previous experience with liberal arts colleges, I was drawn to Lafayette due to its commitment to high-quality research and teaching excellence.

The transition from big state universities to a small liberal arts college hasn’t always been easy, but it has been incredibly rewarding. For example, I’ve adjusted my teaching methods and learned new pedagogies to better fit Lafayette’s smaller class sizes, creating a more engaging and inclusive classroom. One of my favorite aspects of teaching at Lafayette is that I can get to know all of my students’ names and interests each semester, which was unheard of at my undergraduate institution. Some of my most rewarding experiences have come from working with students on their honors theses. I’m consistently blown away by the intellectual curiosity they show in the beginning of their journey as well as the quality of research at the end.

I have also enjoyed spending time with my colleagues in the Economics Department and across the College more broadly. Whether it’s discussing the most effective ways to grade a writing assignment, tackling complex econometric equations, or simply discussing weekend plans, the support, helpfulness, and friendliness of everyone has made this a truly enriching environment.

What I’m teaching this fall: This fall I will be teaching two sections of our core Econometrics class as well as my senior capstone course titled The Economics of Education.

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