Welcome from David Blau

The Department of Economics is pleased to provide news and updates on department activities in this newsletter. This edition highlights accomplishments and research of faculty and students, introduces two new faculty members, describes other changes in department staff, and provides useful facts and figures about the department.

As many of you know, OSU converted from quarters to semesters beginning in academic year 2012-13. We survived the first year under the semester system, thanks largely to the time-consuming and meticulous planning efforts by Professor Trevon Logan, who led the transition effort for the undergraduate program, and Professor Hajime Miyazaki, who took charge of the conversion for the graduate program. There were some inconveniences caused by more crowded classrooms and assignment of economics classes to distant rooms on west campus. There was also an unexpected college-wide decline in credit hours, and in the share of total credit hours generated in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The department, along with the rest of the College of Arts and Sciences, suffered a 2-3% budget cut for academic year 2013-14. Flat tuition, assessments to accommodate the cost of the college plan to increase enrollment in the next few years, and increased salary and benefit costs have also added to the financial burden facing the department. We have been able to use some cash reserves to cushion the impact of the cut on instruction in the upcoming year, but we have had to cancel a few classes and combine others.  If the cut is not reversed, there will be a significant impact on instructional resources in the future, requiring fewer course offerings and larger sections.  And there may be adverse effects on our ability to recruit new faculty.

We are grateful to the State of Ohio for its generous support of OSU during the Great Recession, allowing us to avoid furloughs, salary cuts and freezes, and other drastic actions experienced by many public universities. However, as the budget cut this year indicates, state support is unlikely to increase in the foreseeable future, even as OSU is making a significant push to move into the rank of elite public universities. Department faculty have been quite successful in efforts to obtain external support through grants and contracts, and this will be increasingly important to support activities that are crucial to our goal of improving the quality and reputation of the department.

Another source of support for the department is gifts from alumni and friends. These have become increasingly important for activities that help the department improve: funding undergraduate scholarships and prizes, graduate research scholarships and support for graduate students to travel to conferences to present their research, and seminar series that bring scholars to campus to present their cutting edge research. Two generous new gifts are described in the newsletter. We are grateful for contributions at all levels and welcome new contributors (see the last page for information on how to contribute).

I hope you enjoy reading about the interesting behavioral economics research of assistant professor Lucas Coffman, and the “peer effects” research of PhD student Nancy Haskell (who is on the job market this year).  The newsletter also describes the many honors and awards received by faculty and students, as well as metrics of department success. Drop by Arps Hall and say hello if you are in the vicinity.