The Department of Economics at the University of Virginia has a proud history and an excellent reputation, as well as an aspiration to be a premier department amongst those of other elite universities. The Department of Economics now occupies Monroe Hall, a first-rate classroom-office building overlooking the historic West Range in Mr. Jefferson’s academical village. The Department currently has 700 undergraduate students and 100 doctoral students pursuing degrees in Economics.
Nearly 75% of all students in the College of Arts & Sciences enroll in one or more economics classes during their time at the University and approximately 15% of each class majors in Economics, making Economics one of the most popular majors in the College.
The Excellence in Economics Campaign was started in 2010 to raise funding for six primary department ambitions. The aspiration of the initiative is to raise $14 million to fund endowments for each of the six components described below, and spendable funds to operationalize the various initiatives while endowments are building. The endowments will enhance and give permanence to the departmental strengths, critical to sustaining prominence in the teaching of economics, while the operating funds will allow the department to launch certain initiatives as soon as possible.
At the heart of the Excellence in Economics Campaign are two endowed professorships. The first will be named the Kenneth G. Elzinga Professorship in Economics and the Law, in honor of Professor Elzinga, one of the University’s most beloved professors. For more information on the professorship in honor of Ken Elzinga, please see our feature piece on the Kenneth G. Elzinga Professorship in Economics and the Law.
The second endowed professorship, which may be named by an individual donor, will be a professorship in Economics and Finance and will provide the means to attract, retain and reward a gifted teacher who is a leader in the finance field. The fundraising goal for each endowed professorship is $3 million.
Practical Career Development
Students at the University currently receive valuable assistance on resumes and cover letters from University Career Services. There is no program, however, that focuses on finding internships and post-graduate jobs in areas like public service, law, finance, and other sectors where most Economics majors end up working. Funding a dedicated staff position for this purpose within the Department of Economics would match students with internships and post-graduate jobs. The objective would be to provide students with career support on par with what is available at other elite universities and professional schools. The cost of providing this service is anticipated to be $50,000 per year. Giving permanence to this through endowment requires $1.5 million. Naming will be afforded to a donor at this level. In order to hire a career services professional and ensure program continuity for the first three years, $150,000 in operating funding is required.
Student/Faculty Collaborative Research
The Marshall Jevons Fund currently sponsors innovative research by undergraduate Economics students each year, providing unique opportunities for these undergraduates to attend academic conferences or pursue other independent projects.
To open this already successful program to more of our highly talented students requires additional funding. Our initial fundraising goal is $75,000, which will allow the program to continue at its current level for three years, or quadruple the current level for one year. Endowing this fund at its current level requires $500,000, however, $1 million will double the current annual support and give it permanence.
The student experience at top-tier research universities is enriched by collaboration with faculty who are actively engaged in research. A new fund, the Faculty-Directed Research Fund, will sponsor projects undertaken by both graduate and undergraduate Economics students under the direction of faculty members. These projects are often eligible for federal grants, but require seed funding before grant proposals can be submitted. The seed funds allow for activities such as travelto developing countries to collect data in the field or for laboratory tests of new economic concepts and policy proposals. Providing our students with seed funding to pursue federal grants is critical to the work of a leading economics department. The cost of supporting this type of research is approximately $100,000 per year. Giving permanence to it requires an endowment of $2 million. Naming will be afforded to a donor at this level. In order to launch this program, $200,000 in start-up funding is required.
Nobel Speakers Fund
The Department of Economics aspires to create a Nobel Speakers Series to attract visiting Nobel Laureates in economics to the University Grounds. The series would bring some of the world’s best economists to the University to give presentations focused on transformative ideas, such as Nobel Laureate Ronald H. Coase who taught at the University. Such a series would greatly benefit the students and add prestige to the Department of Economics, as well as the University. The fundraising goal to endow the donor-named Nobel Speakers Series is $1.5 million. In order to launch the series, $50,000 in annual funding is needed.
The Excellence in Economics Campaign will also provide for four endowed teaching fellowships. The teaching fellowships will be awarded to promising graduate students and will enable the Department to compete more successfully with other top universities for the very best prospective teacher scholars in the field of economics. Excellent teaching assistants are critical to the effectiveness of departments with large enrollments and these teaching fellows will hone their teaching skills in economics under the supervision of Professor Elzinga and other professors for a full semester before they begin leading Economics discussion sections. At present, new graduate students assume teaching responsibilities as soon as they arrive at the University.
While the University routinely attracts many of the world’s most talented and promising graduate students, too often outstanding candidates choose to attend other institutions because of better financial packages. Funding these fellowships will help to bring about better teaching, improved faculty hiring, and higher productivity in Economics’ research activities.
The fundraising goal for each donor-named endowed fellowship is $500,000.
To contribute to the Excellence in Economics Campaign, visit us online at http://campaign.virginia.edu/supporteconexcellence, or call the Arts & Sciences Development Office at (434) 924-7213 to receive a pledge form or for additional information.