(l to r) Ghaicha Aboubacar Ahe ‘24, Minh (Michael) Nguyen ‘25, Giovanny Martínez Rodríguez ‘25

In 2021, the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute for Economics (BFI) launched its Expanding Diversity in Economics Summer Institute (EDE). The program is designed to “identify and support talented undergraduate students from a broad range of backgrounds who are interested in the study of economics.” Among the 43 talented undergraduates the program has selected for its second cohort are three from Macalester: Ghaicha Aboubacar Ahe ‘24, Minh (Michael) Nguyen ‘25, and Giovanny Martínez Rodríguez ‘25

“It is crucial that we have more diverse perspectives in economics,” Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and Director of BFI, said in a press release. “EDE was designed to expose more students to economics at an early stage. This will nurture a new generation of scholars and professionals who will help the economics profession develop new answers to old questions, ask new questions, and ultimately make the world better.”

All three Mac students grew up outside the United States and their experiences back home inspired them to study economics.

Ahe is Tuareg, which is an Amazigh (Berber) ethnic group that largely inhabits the Sahara, and she grew up in Niger’s capital Niamey. For her, economics is everywhere. 

“In the last few years I have been having conversations about economics with my father, which was not the norm before,” she said. “And I realized that economics exists in everything around the world. You can find an economic explanation and talk about what effect any event is going to have on the economic situation and vice versa.”

She hopes her experience at the EDE will help her grow as a student and as a person. 

“I just hope I get confidence in my choices and in my ability to fully understand and implement what I learn to hopefully contribute to my underserved community one day,” she said. 

As the son of two professors, Nguyen grew up in a college town in Vietnam called Trau Quy near Hanoi and witnessed the income and social disparities between the college’s employees and the local community. Initially, he thought studying political science was the best path for him to try to address these issues, but a gap year spent in entrepreneurship and a first-year course taught by professor Peter Ferderer introduced him to the power of economics. 

“I loved seeing how businesses and economic agents can make change in the world,” he said. “It’s not all about making profits, it’s more about how people and institutions respond to incentives in a society, and that really changed my perspective about economics and it clicked for me, in terms of what I want to do in the future.” 

Rodríguez is a first-generation college student from Caracas, Venezuela. For him, economics has been a passion since he was a young teenager. 

“I grew up in Venezuela seeing political leaders making really bad economic decisions, seeing my family suffering and struggling because of them, and that’s basically the reason why I’m passionate about economics,” he said. 

All three said they are excited to be studying at a school known for its economics department and to be among students with similar backgrounds and experiences. 

“Economics is a really male-centric and European- or Western-centric field. So just to be a part of a program that aims to improve that kind of status quo and to open doors for other people, that interests me,” said Nguyen.

The Expanding Diversity in Economics Summer Institute runs from June 6-26. 

June 2 2022

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