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A Grad Student Experiences First Fall Conference

December 22, 2014 09:00 AM

By Jorge Rojas-Vallejos, University of Washington

As a graduate student in economics from the University of Washington, the Fall Research Conference organized by APPAM was a fantastic opportunity to learn and interact with scholars and practitioners from different fields and institutions. I attended this conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to present my work on educational policy. More specifically, how environmental pollution may impact students’ academic performance. I presented my work in the panel Examining the Relationship Between Education and Health where I had the fortune to share the stage with senior researchers that provide valuable feedback. As a graduate student, this feedback has helped me immensely to make my research stronger and more compelling. Comments made by David Figlio, David Frisvold, Dave Marcotte, and many others turned out to be the source of many improvements in my work and the origin of a new research topic between the importance of relative inequality, the degree of development and human capital formation.

My experience at the conference and in the panel formation process was very enriching, academically and professionally speaking. The fellowship and eagerness to provide feedback by the audience is something to highlight. Getting useful comments in this fraternal atmosphere is something that highly motivates one to become a researcher. I could feel how the comments really attempted to make my work better rather than pointing out possible weaknesses of the same.

I presented at the very first session of the conference, so I had plenty of time to attend other panels. At first, I thought I was quite lucky with my panel, the discussions, and the feedback, but after a couple of panels I realized it was a standard behavior. I furthermore observed a few practitioners providing interesting opinions about the ways to argue in favor or against a policy. This was, to some extent, a new experience for me. I have attended multiple economic conferences and these types of discussions do not happen very often. I like to work on topics that target the implementation of policies to improve society’s well-being, and obtaining the practitioners insight is something that I would love to see in economic conferences.

The APPAM Conference had a nice balance of research, fellowship and real-world experience. This is definitely a place where any graduate student can feel confident to get a good personal experience as well as an academic one.

 

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