“If you want to change the world… hurry up and get into economics! It’s so much more than that “stock markets” stereotype! It’s about health economics, it’s aboriginal economics, and it’s complementary to so many other disciplines! It adds a strong statistical component to your studies that helps you go beyond your own opinion so your perspective has more weight and power. You may or may not yet have the quantitative skills, but you can acquire them. The mathematics you employ in Economics is not like the math you took in high school. Here, you apply it to real world scenarios that matter. For example: how will people respond to a tax on carbon emissions?”
Leslie Shiell, professor
“In this course, students take a look at certain aboriginal issues, through the economic lens. We talk about history, development and questions of equality. We look at welfare, at the cost of goods, at taxation. Ultimately, we try to analyze how economics may help solve some of the poverty and inequality issues currently faced by Aboriginal peoples.”
Aggey Semenov, professor
Video is available in French only. Closed captioning has been provided in French and English.
Directed Research Project – Interview with Alannah McBride
A directed research project in economics is a great opportunity for fourth-year economics students to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting during one session. This course, which is offered in both fall and winter sessions, is an excellent option for those who are looking for something outside of academia and beyond their comfort zone.
Meet Alannah Mcbride, an economics student who decided to take on this challenge.
What is the directed research project in economics?
The directed research project in economics is an opportunity to work with a professional on an economics-related idea. It's not only course work but also an opportunity to meet and work with experienced economists who want to teach you the applicable side of economics. There's no better way to understand what a job in economics would be like!
How did you hear about the course?
Professor Kathleen Day e-mailed me to ask if I wanted to apply/participate and I'm so happy she did!
How did the application process go and how was your initial contact with the employer?
I requested a certain health-related research project but Professor Day mentioned that another student also wanted that project but I was really hoping to get it. Professor Day suggested I think about another project and asked the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy (Randall Bartlett and Kevin Page) if they had a socially-oriented project and they did- on homelessness! She highly recommended that project and informed me that she couldn't give me the health-related one that I had originally wanted. I was disappointed but decided to still go ahead with the project at the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy and meet the supervisor. I'm so happy I did!
I met Randall and got a feel for the project. I was a little intimidated but I knew that it would be a great experience and that the supervisors would be there to provide guidance whenever I needed it. I felt like I was ready to move past the classroom setting and work on current issues.
What did you learn from this experience?
What a loaded question! I learned so much from the DRP. First, I had experienced a steep learning curve when it came to researching online resources like government documents, academic papers, private organization documentation etc. I kept organized and wrote down all the relevant information from these resources to use in my final write up. Second, I learned a lot about government funding structures and policies. Basically, how money flows down from the federal government to provinces and municipalities and, finally, to service providers. I feel like I now have a good perspective on how our housing and homelessness services are funded. Third, I had a bit of a wakeup call. By no means did I ever think the world was perfect, but I feel like I really experienced how messy policy-making really is. I read pages of program guidelines, deconstructed them and compared them to other programs. I came to the conclusion that many homelessness programs (Federal, Provincial and Municipal) require some updating. Fourth, I learned about the importance of data collection and proper data analysis and measurement. I found it very difficult to use data that didn't measure what it said it would measure. The comparison I use: "If you're trying to measure how many university students live in Ottawa but you count uOttawa and Algonquin students, you're not actually measuring what you wanted to measure." You'd be including some that shouldn't be included and excluding some that should be included. The same goes for homelessness. And this data measurement problem is rampant in Ottawa. Fifth, and maybe the most useful thing I learned, was how diverse economics really is. During a team meeting, I'd discuss my project but I'd also hear about the federal public accounts, economic forecasting, federal & provincial budgets, financial economics, Indigenous rights and so much more. Working in a team environment and using each other’s expertise was amazing!
What would you say to other students who may be reluctant to sign up for this course?
Even if you don't have an interest in research or think you'd be good at it, or don't intend on going to grad school, just check out the project options and give one a try. No one expects you to jump into a project and know everything, it's still a course after all! Getting the opportunity to work with the supervisors is incredible and can lead to jobs and references. The semester I did the course, my resume doubled in size since I got to volunteer for various events and have some work published, on top of the work experience. It never felt like a chore to meet up with my supervisor and I continued working on the project as an employee after the course finished and will be a full-time summer student for Summer 2018.
I hope that answers all the questions. I only have good things to say about my experience with the directed research project course. It was a lot of work and sometimes deadlines were moved up, but I always enjoyed the work I was doing and always felt supported. Best decision I ever made in my undergrad!
For more information on Alannah's research visit the articles below.