Meet Our Majors

Economics majors are inspired to learn about a broad range of social and global issues.

Learn about the Oxy experience for some of our majors from the Class of 2021.

Fritz Manzano ’21

Major: economics
Minor: politics
Hometown: Saipan, MP

What do you like most about studying economics?
I like how the concepts and models can explain a lot about the world we live in and the decisions people make. As an economics major, I have started applying economic thinking in many aspects of my daily life, such as thinking about opportunity costs when making certain decisions.

Have you taken part in any economics research opportunities at Oxy or elsewhere?
I am currently working as a research assistant with Professor Jason Wong, looking specifically at worker remittances and the economy of the Philippines. I also participated in Carnegie Mellon University’s Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute where I researched the relationship between neighborhood segregation and the achievement gap.

Did you study abroad? How did it enhance your education?
I studied abroad in Germany during my junior year. A key component of my abroad experience was getting a firsthand look at the complexities of the policy making process by visiting multiple European Union institutions and meeting with policymakers at different levels. My program focused on the intersection of politics and economics, which allowed me to learn how political and economic factors shape policy making.

What are your plans post-Oxy and how has the liberal arts approach shaped your future ambitions?
I plan to pursue a master’s degree in public policy. The wide range of classes I have taken at Oxy has helped me gain valuable analytical, technical and interpersonal skills that will be useful for a career in policy.

Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in economics?
If you are still unsure about majoring in economics after taking ECON 102 or 250, try taking an elective course! While the core courses provide you with the framework economists use to analyze issues, the elective courses apply models to real world situations which are more practical.

Kayla Hreczuck ’21

Major: economics
Minor: politics
Hometown: Newton, MA

What was your motivation to major in economics?
I came into Oxy undecided about what I wanted to major in. However, after taking some economics classes, I saw how applicable the study of economics is in providing insight and policy recommendations to solve real world problems. My Intermediate Microeconomics and Macroeconomics classes in particular affirmed my decision to major in economics; they discussed a wide variety of topics from consumer theory to monetary policy which I found very fascinating.

Can you describe your working relationships with econ professors? Were there any standout classes you’ve taken?
My experience as an economics student has been very positively shaped by the relationships I have formed with my professors. The economics professors are extremely supportive of their students and passionate about their specialized research areas. If I ever have a question about class material, my professors have been very accessible through office hours or scheduled appointments. During office hours, my professors have also been happy to speak with me about economic research opportunities and provide guidance about future career paths.

A standout class I have taken is Advanced Econometrics with Professor Kevin Williams. This class opened my eyes to various econometric approaches that researchers take to analyze data and draw causal inferences. I also gained a deeper technical understanding of econometric concepts which aided me in my summer research work. With the skills I have learned in this class, I am able to model everyday problems in an effective way which I believe is very powerful.

Have you taken part in any economics research opportunities at Oxy?
I was fortunate to be granted the opportunity to assist Professor Diana Ngo in researching the effects of experiential outdoor education for over a year as a research assistant and Undergraduate Research Center summer research fellow. My research experience has allowed me to build practical skills such as cleaning, merging and analyzing data. This experience has also given me the opportunity to build a relationship with a professor who shares similar research interests as myself and has challenged me to think more critically.

What are your plans or ambitions post-Oxy and how has the liberal arts approach shaped your future ambitions?
After Oxy, I plan to work for a few years as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve or as an analyst at an economic consulting firm. In the future, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in economics. My liberal arts education has enabled me to approach global challenges with multiple lenses and think critically about proposed solutions to these problems. As a politics minor, I have been able to use my knowledge of economics to model societal issues discussed in my politics classes and propose efficient and practical policy solutions.

Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in economics?
Be inquisitive, collaborate with peers and don’t be afraid to ask for help! The Oxy economics major has a ton of resources to support students, including peer tutors, student clubs (Economics Student Association and Women of Economics) and professor office hours. Taking advantage of these resources will not only help you succeed but will also help you build relationships with faculty and peers.

Alexis Martinez ’21

Major: economics
Hometown: South Central Los Angeles

What was your motivation to major in economics? Was there an inspirational moment or experience you can point to?
My motivation to major in economics initially was the direct connection to mathematics to explain the models and solve for specific variables of interest. I was always interested in mathematics and its applications, so soon after my introductory economics course I saw immense potential for applying mathematics. One inspirational moment was during my Principles of Economics II class with Professor Daron Djerdjian in which my initial grades were not ideal. But he reached out to me because he saw potential in me and offered an opportunity to redeem myself and raise my grades. My current motivation for continuing the economics major is the ability to work with and learn from caring, professional, and challenging faculty who allow me to showcase my ability independent of a letter grade.

Can you describe your working relationships with econ professors? Were there any standout classes you’ve taken?
My working relationship with the economics department professors is superb, respectful and mutually understanding. I feel comfortable speaking with any professor on a range of topics both within and outside the scope of class material. Two standout classes that boosted my confidence in economics were Applied Econometrics with Professor Kevin Williams and Labor Economics with Professor Jorgen Harris. Both of these classes gave me the tools and knowledge base necessary to excel in any setting within economics and even research in general. That is not to say that all my other economics courses did not help me improve my skills, rather that the courses with Professors Williams and Harris represent the space in which I felt the most confident and realized the most gains in understanding.

Have you taken part in any economics research opportunities at Oxy or elsewhere?
Up to this point I have not engaged with Oxy’s formal opportunities of research, such as the Undergraduate Research Center or as a research assistant with a professor. However, another great aspect of the economics department is my peers, who are active in economic inquiry and not afraid to tackle a challenge. Currently I am working with friends and classmates on potential research for our own purposes, which entails a project that we are interested in and pursue because we want to apply what we have learned rather than as a mandatory assignment. The opportunities are out there and all it really takes is some initiative to ask professors or submit that application, and if you do not get the opportunity right away the faculty notice your efforts so that when another chance is available you’ll be the first one in mind.

What do you like most about studying economics?
It is the combination of critical thought, normative argumentation, and the people who make up the department (students and faculty alike). It is enriching to learn various methods and models and be able to apply them where applicable. It is also enriching to engage in academic debate and argue with economic concepts and reasoning. My peers and professors create such a welcoming and lively environment that does not discourage participation or questions, in fact those two aspects are encouraged, and all ideas are valued within the scope of each class. The most exciting aspect of economics is the application to policy, and as of late that is the component that motivates me the most because with that I can participate more effectively in the shaping of policy at a local and more broad level.

What are your plans post-Oxy and how has the liberal arts approach shaped your future ambitions?
I plan to pursue a career in consulting and perhaps graduate school later down the road. I feel very prepared and Oxy has given me many tools and foundations with which to successfully achieve my ambitions and I truly do believe that is because of the liberal arts approach. With its emphasis on multidisciplinary education, the liberal arts approach is key in consulting because attention to detail and an ability to synthesize various perspectives is crucial for crafting sound decisions. Written and oral communications skills, which are emphasized in all subjects and classrooms, allow me to express myself effectively to others who may or may not know what I know, which is also a key aspect that gives me confidence in the pursuit of my post-Oxy ambitions.

Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in economics?
My biggest advice to students considering the economics major is to not be afraid of the math! Many times my peers and I have fallen into deep troughs of confusion regarding technical details or symbols and sometimes it gets paralyzing or demoralizing. But do not fear, because the economics and math professors are more than willing to help you and will most likely explain a concept or problem to you, and maybe more than you might expect. Mathematics is a tool that boosts your economic understanding and confidence and should not be a barrier to entry. I do not expect to be an expert the first time around with new concepts and neither do your professors, so it is okay to initially be unsure and to ask for help. You are more than capable of learning just about anything that crosses your path.

Aleeza Toribio ’21

Major: economics
Minor: studio art
Hometown: Yonkers, NY

What was your motivation to major in economics?
When I came to Oxy, I didn’t entirely know what “economics” was. All I knew was that being introduced to a primarily white institution while coming from a low-income family living in a largely POC neighborhood was a big shock—and it definitely came with its own set of challenges, frustrations, and confusion. These feelings urged me to search for a field of study that would better help me understand the systems and structures in place that contribute to the disparities in resources, education, and health we continue to see today. Understanding these systems, structures, and cycles allows us to pinpoint where we as a society can improve and how we can best move forward.
 
Have you taken part in any economics research opportunities at Oxy?
I’ve been working as a research assistant with Professor Diano Ngo since my sophomore year and it has given me the opportunity to realize how economists use the theories, models, and technical skills taught in class in order to answer real world questions. We have been able to work on projects such as studying the determinants of the STEM gender gap in Mexico City, using durable goods as a means of measuring poverty in developing countries, and examining the various benefits of outdoor experiential learning.
 
What do you like most about studying economics?
I like being able to take big ideas/challenges and re-conceptualize them in a more concrete, mathematical or graphical manner. Economics allows me to further explain or illustrate the knowledge I’ve previously accumulated through personally interacting with my surroundings. It provides another layer of understanding about how the world around me works.
 
What are your plans or ambitions post-Oxy and how has the liberal arts approach helped to shape those future ambitions?
I plan on continuing my involvement in economics research. The technical tools I’ve learned to make use of as an economics major—in combination with the histories, ideologies, and theories I’ve been exposed to as a liberal arts student—have motivated me to look at the world through a critical lens. I intend to use these skills to pose questions about the structures that contribute to inequality, poverty, climate change etc., and search for policies and solutions to best support the communities most affected by these problems.  
 
Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in economics?
Be open-minded and don’t get too caught up in the numbers! At some point during my time at Oxy, amidst all the calculating optimal values, I found myself getting lost in the numbers and forgetting my initial motivations for studying economics. Taking classes outside of my economics major that complemented my studies and interests encouraged me to maintain a well-rounded mode of thinking. I think it’s important to keep in mind that the numbers we work with in economics may represent real lives, people, and choices. Remember that our classes are meant to supply us with tools and foundations. What we choose to do with them is up to us—the sky's the limit!