PhD Candidate Diana Alessandrini takes business cycle research to tenure-track position at Auburn University
PhD candidate Diana Alessandrini is getting ready for the next step in her academic career. Currently completing her PhD in Economics, she has already accepted a tenure-track position at Auburn University in Alabama where she will continue her research on the effects business cycles have on people’s decisions regarding education and the labour market.
Name: Diana Alessandrini
Hometown: Cesena, Italy
Program: PhD in Economics
Why did you choose to pursue your MA and PhD at the University of Guelph?
During my undergraduate studies in Italy, I met several Canadian professors including Dr. Thanasis Stengos, a professor in the Department of Economics and Finance at the University of Guelph. After working with him on my undergraduate thesis, I decided to apply to the MA program in Economics at Guelph.
Tell us more about your research focus.
I study the impact of business cycles on people’s decisions regarding education and the labour market. One of the main findings is that, in North America, recessions stimulate post-secondary enrolment of young people and low-skilled individuals.
How did your interest in this research develop?
Post-secondary educational institutions in North America experienced a significant increase in enrolment rates during the recent financial crisis. I was interested in understanding why.
Why is this type of research important?
We are aware of the negative economic impact of recessions. However, we know less about the positive impact that recessions may have on the economy. The literature has shown that recessions lead to the re-organization and destruction of the least productive firms and, therefore, have some positive impact on the economy. Based on the results of my thesis, this positive impact may also depend on the increase in enrolment rates. Education positively affects the economy by reducing crime rates, increasing civic participation, and fostering technological progress and growth. If recessions increase educational achievement in a country, the economy will benefit. This does not imply that crises are good for the economy. The costs most likely offset the benefits. However, it is important to have a comprehensive picture of the dynamics associated with business cycles.
You recently accepted a tenure-track position at Auburn University in Alabama. What are you most looking forward to about this opportunity?
I am looking forward to working in an excellent department with very friendly colleagues. There are several other professors in my field and I think the Department of Economics at Auburn will provide a very stimulating environment for my research. I am also excited to learn about American culture and experience the warm weather.
How did your education at U of G help prepare you for this job?
The support and guidance of my advisors, Thanasis Stengos and Stephen Kosempel, was extremely helpful. Their encouragement, comments and advice helped me grow as a researcher. Also the experience as a sessional lecturer at the University of Guelph was very important. It gave me the opportunity to understand how challenging and rewarding teaching can be.
Where do you see your research going in the future?
I am interested in studying how government intervention in the education sector should react to macroeconomic conditions. Even if individuals are better off by going back to school or staying longer in school during recessions, they may not be able to afford schooling. This may cause under-investment in education. I am interested in determining whether it is optimal for governments to allocate more tax revenue to the financial support of education (e.g. scholarships, bursaries, loans) during economic downturns.
What has been the most rewarding part of the PhD program at U of G?
The PhD program transformed me and changed the way I see the world. It has been an incredible learning experience, which I shared with wonderful people. The environment was always very supportive and open. Further, it has been a great opportunity for me to learn about Canada and its extraordinary multicultural society.
What advice do you have for students considering pursuing their PhD in Economics?
The only advice I would give is: persevere and stay focused, but try not to lose touch with normal life.