W&L Students Attend Diverse Economics Conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond The Williams School and Department of Economics provided the opportunity for students to network and explore careers in the field of economics.
It’s not always easy to discern a career path in a diverse field like economics, but five Washington and Lee students received an opportunity to explore the possibilities at the Fifth Annual Diverse Economics Conference (DivEc) held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond on Friday, October 13.
The Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics, and the Department of Economics offered the opportunity to students taking introductory economics classes to demonstrate the various career tracks available to students who major in economics. The university provided transportation to and from the free one-day event, which was attended by Maria José Pérez Aguirre ’27, Ryan Bascom ’27, Crystal Campuzano ’27, Van Nguyen ’27 and Cindy Xie ’26.
The conference featured several well-respected speakers and offered networking opportunities, as well as a look behind the scenes at what it’s like to work at the Richmond Fed office.
“We believe that students can utilize this conference to gain real-world insights into economic careers,” said Linda Hooks, head of the W&L Economics Department. “They had the opportunity to hear about the diverse array of topics in business and in policy that can be addressed using economics, creating an enthusiasm for applying the tools of economics to the world around them.”
Highly-respected economist Ebonya Washington, Laurans A. and Arlene Mendelson Professor of Economics at Columbia University, served as the conference’s keynote speaker, while a panel of similarly esteemed economists and executives from the Richmond Fed offered advice on careers in the field.
“I truly enjoyed listening to Professor Washington,” said Pérez Aguirre, a first-year student from Oaxaca, Mexico. “I was very inspired by her words and advice for future economists since she talked about experiences I can relate to as an international student – specifically how sometimes the field of economics can lack diversity. For example, 12.81% of economists in the U.S. are Hispanic and just 32.72% are women.”
Campuzano, a first-year from Rogers, Arkansas, found the panel discussion particularly valuable. “I enjoyed the panel because they provided perspectives from four different economists,” she said. “I particularly enjoyed [Richmond Fed Senior Policy Economist] John O’Trakoun, an economist with a Laotian background. He spoke about his humble beginnings and his journey to finding success at the Richmond Fed, which was super inspiring.”
Another key takeaway from the conference was the opportunity to network with peers from other colleges, as well as professionals already establishing careers in the economic field.
“The most valuable aspect of the conference for me was being able to meet people with similar interests from various colleges and universities,” said Xie, a sophomore from Richmond, Virginia. “Additionally, the last part of the conference involved networking with current employees who hold jobs that involve economics. It was interesting to talk to these people and I plan to use their advice to navigate my own job search and future career.”
Students attending the conference also learned about unique economic programs offered through the Fed and the variety of career opportunities that exist for those with degrees in economics, some of which they might not have considered previously.
“I think the most valuable experience was learning from different backgrounds and perspectives how broad the field of economics is, as well as the different career paths you can take,” said Pérez Aguirre. “I found it very inspirational to see successful women in the field who are doing research about issues I personally care about, like gender-based violence and abortion.”
The DivEc Conference was hosted by the Richmond Fed in partnership with the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond and the School of Business at Virginia Commonwealth University.
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