Alumni News

Gwen Beeman, Bachelor of Science, Class of 2013: 

 I finished PSU in Spring of 2013 with a BS in Economics, after which I moved to Ireland and enrolled in a two-year Global Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) program run jointly by Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin, which I am nearing the end of. Along with working on my dissertation I’m currently doing an internship with 10Power, a company providing financing for renewable energy in developing communities, and will spend the summer in Istanbul on internship with UNDP’s Gender Team . My main area of focus is gender and development.

My time and education at PSU were vital to me arriving to the point I’m at now. I was a first-generation student, as well as being non-traditional (29 when I finished my undergraduate degree), and a transfer student, all of which had me feeling pretty intimidated and out of my element when I started. I changed majors to economics early on without really knowing what I wanted to do with it, but was always happy with the decision. I loved the philosophical courses offered, and felt like I received a deeper understanding of the subject and the way the world works than I might have elsewhere. I wasn’t thinking about this at the time, but it also turned out to be a perfect background for my current program. Most importantly for me, I always felt really engaged with and supported by econ department staff. I doubt I would have had the confidence or even idea of trying for grad school without that, so am very thankful!

Lief Ericson, Bachelor of Science, Class of 2007: 

After graduation, I traveled South America and then applied to graduate school at University of Missouri- Kansas City with the hopes of getting my PhD in Economics.  I attended UMKC for four years and although I decided not to finish my PhD, I did complete my course work and also spent some time on my dissertation.  I left Kansas City with my Masters in Economics and began working on social justice campaigns for gay rights and air pollution. It is this campaign work that took me to Philadelphia, PA in the summer of 2012.  After the election cycle ended, I left the campaign world and, after several months of pursuing employment options, landed a job working for the Philadelphia City Controller where I research and analyze policies that impact the finances and budget of the city.  Over my two and half years doing policy research for Philadelphia, I have gained a deep understanding of how many disciplines collide to form policy. More importantly, I learned how important geography is to economics - not simply rivers and mountains, but space itself and how it has been used in past and what is possible for how it can be used in the future. My time at Portland State not only provided me with the economics foundation that allows me to participate in this level of policy discussion, but also exposed me to enough other disciplines that I am able to change my world-view and methodological framework when evidence and environment makes it necessary to do so.

I truly love being involved in politics and am hoping to be able to contribute my skills to Philadelphia's new mayoral administration. I've found that my unique education and skill set is rare and necessary in municipal government, and I have enjoyed the personal and professional gratification that comes with improving my own city.

I often think about where my life would be had I gone to a different school. I've come to realize that the things I learned at Portland State, the people I met, the professors who taught me and the path they put me on gave me a very fulfilling life working in a discipline that I love. I'm not just in a career that makes me happy, but an epistemology that I'm not sure I would have ever found in another institution.


Jonas Rama, Bachelor of Arts, Class of 2005: 

I arrived in Portland in the Summer of 2001 and enrolled for the Fall Term as an English as Second Language student. I was excited to explore the first-hand experiences at an urban, American university such as PSU. In January 2002 I began to work towards a B.A. in economics. I achieved all of my objectives and graduated in the Summer of 2005. My time at PSU proved an especially rich and empowering experience, and the people I met, both students and those working at PSU, made all the difference. 

The diverse student body composition with its different age groups, socio-economic strata, ethnic and international backgrounds definitely added to my personal growth. University professors and officials who cared about my development as a student and as a citizen of the world always stood by me. I was privileged to be one of thirty international students invited to take part with the International Cultural Service Program Scholarship (ICSP). My association with ICSP proved to be a wonderful opportunity for developing my human and interpersonal skills through introducing my home country, Brazil, to fellow classmates and Multnomah County’s high-school students. This opportunity also allowed me to collaborate with some of the distinguished members associated with the World Affairs Council Oregon. During my junior year I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to undertake three-months of field research and focus on peasant economies in Mali, West Africa. This lifetime experience would not have proved possible, if it were not for earnest faculty support and solid advice. I learned immensely from all these experiences and human interactions.

I continued my education in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I pursued my M.A. in regional integration from the University of Buenos Aires. I recently obtained my M.S. in Economics and a M.Phil. in Economic Philosophy from University of Paris Panthéon Sorbonne in Paris where I am currently a PhD candidate.  

Not only did I grow personally and academically during my PSU days, but I also initiated my professional career path as an economist and consultant specialized in emerging markets while working in Portland, Buenos Aires, São Paulo and other locations in Brazil. On the academic front, I now serve as the coordinator for the Globalization and Emerging World Chair at La Sorbonne in Paris, and I also advise Brazilian private colleges and universities in formulating their internationalization efforts and partnerships with foreign higher education and research institutions in Argentina, Mexico and France. I could not have asked for more, and PSU is where it all started for me. 

Mitchell Green, Bachelor of Science, Class of 2010 

I finished my doctorate in economics from the University of Missori – Kansas City in the summer of 2015. Over the 2014 / 2015 academic year, I taught courses in environmental & natural resource economics, economics statistics, and introductory political economy at Franklin & Marshall College where I was offered a tenure-track position before answering the call to return to Cascadia. Currently I work for the Bonneville Power Administration as an economist where I have the privilege of working on a number of challenging issues facing our region over the coming decades, of which the actual provisioning of electricity is only a piece of the puzzle. Additionally, I currently serve on the board of directors for the Association for Institutional Thought. In reflecting upon these experiences, I’m struck by the fact that it was only six years ago that I was an economics student at Portland State University.

Had I not stumbled into an economics course at PSU, I would never have become steeped in the Worldly Philosophy which remains my daily passion. Without the careful attention of the economics faculty at Portland State, I may have digested the curriculum without tasting it, passing it over for another discipline. As an economics student at Portland State, I felt like I was part of something special. It was as if we were invited to join a conversation that had been in motion as long as modernity itself, wrestling with the matter of fact business of everyday life. We were encouraged to explore new approaches, attend conferences, and engage directly and critically as peer scholars. All of this compelled me to attend graduate school. The intellectual debt I owed to the department ensured that I finished. 

Aside from the work I do with Bonneville, I continue to conduct research on things I find interesting including the economic history of the Pacific Northwest, pricing among large enterprises, history of economic thought, pedagogy, and the current housing crisis in the Portland metropolitan statistical area. I plan to continue presenting these streams of research and discussing the same at future meetings of the Association for Evolutionary Economics, Association for Institutional Thought, and the Union for Radical Political Economics. Recently I have joined the Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity as Research Scholar, whose advisory board includes Charles Goodhart (London School of Economics), Julianne Malveuax (President Emeritia of Bennet College for Woman), john a. powell (Director, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society), Jan Kregel (Levy Institute; Co-editor, Journal of Post Keynesian Economics), Rebeca Grynspan  (Secretary General of SEGIB), and Bradley Batemen (President, Denison University).

Andres Guzman, Bachelor of Arts, Class of 2011:

Andres graduated with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Economics, Sociology, and International Studies with a thematic focus on development studies and a regional focus on Latin America.  He was in the first cohort to graduate from Portland State with an International Development Studies major.  The insights and approaches from these three distinct, but interrelated disciplines, broadened his intellectual outlook and shaped his worldview.  While at Portland State, he completed three major projects: an Honors thesis in Economics using institutional economics as the guiding framework, a Senior Capstone project in Argentina on the benefits of ecotourism, and a thesis for the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program on the environmental and social impacts of soybean production in South America.

The rigor of his education at PSU prepared Andres to complete his Master of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Oregon (UofO) in June of 2014.  The central focus of his studies was environmental sociology with a large part of his studies centered on gender, sexualities, and masculinities. 

Since then, Andres spent a year working in Human Resources at Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC).  His tenure in this department led him to become a participant of the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber’s Latino Leadership Program, Class X.  The program enhances the leadership and management skills of Latino leaders by positioning them to continue advancement in their employment while also promoting community leadership through volunteerism on public boards and commissions.  Currently, he is serving as the Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Student Development and Success at MHCC.  Andres uses the skills and knowledge of his liberal arts education to be successful in this professional capacity.

Andres enjoys giving back to the community. He serves as an Advisory Board Committee Member for the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) which works to protect community and environmental health and to inspire the use of ecologically sound solutions to reduce pesticide use.  He has also volunteered his time as an interviewer for Oregon Consular Corps scholarships, for which he was a past recipient, which is part of his commitment to making higher education more accessible for undergraduates.

Scott McConnell, Bachelor of Science, Class of 2002:

After a few years in the workforce in Portland, I came back to PSU as a post-Baccalaureate to take classes and explore new career paths. I took some classes in Urban and Regional Planning, Education and re-connected with some of my economics teachers. That was 2005-06.  

I went to the Harold Vatter Lecture in 2006 which re-invigorated my interest in economics and I decided to pursue graduate work in the field. I was accepted with a full stipend of financial support to the University of Missouri-Kansas City to complete a PhD in Economics, which I finished in 2013. 

While attending UMKC, my wife Alicia and I had our daughter, Fern, and she accompanied us on our journey through graduate school. I worked for one year as a Visiting Lecturer at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota as I finished my dissertation. When I entered the job market in 2012, the opportunity arose to return to the Pacific Northwest and I embraced it. I am currently employed at Eastern Oregon University as an Assistant Professor of Economics. Here at Eastern, my colleague Peter Maille and I have created a new economics degree. Eastern Oregon University is uniquely situated geographically in a region that provides ample research opportunities to better understand rural poverty and economic development, so I am planning on turning my attention to that area as a line of research. 

I am also continuing to study and write on issues regarding the history of money. In the Summer of 2015 I travelled to the island State of Yap in Micronesia to research their use of the Rai Stone (large stone discs used as money prior to and during early colonization) as a contribution to the history of money literature. I am going to continue my career at Eastern Oregon University and continue to develop the economics program that I helped found in 2014. I will also continue my research agenda and most likely return to Yap to study their transition from traditional to market-based society. 

I truly owe everything to my education at PSU during my time in Portland. The personal connections I made there with faculty have turned into life-long friendships and have meant a great deal to my academic and personal goals. I thank them for the inspiration and for introducing me to the academic traditions that now mean so much to me.

Mark Miller, Bachelor of Science, Class of 2013:

Since graduating from Portland State in March of 2013, I’ve spent the last three years working for San Francisco Bay Area startups, integrating myself as a jack- of-all-trades. My work has included technical recruiting, growth and marketing, technical support, copywriting, building partnerships with other startups, web design, graphic design, and a host of other tasks. Whether it involves working with developers to improve user experience, writing articles for knowledge bases, flying to our headquarters in Hamburg, Germany to train new employees, or instructing workshops on web design principles, each week tends to take turns fundamentally different from the previous. It’s a fun, but challenging industry—I’m glad I was prepared.

Portland State’s interdisciplinary approach to education provided me with the flexibility and adaptive skills necessary to exceed in the ever-changing world of the tech industry. The curriculum and mentorship that I received at Portland State has equipped me with the tools I’ve needed to thrive both independently and in team settings. My senior capstone—Student Debt: Economics, Policy, and Advocacy—introduced me to policy analysis, lobbying (both direct and grassroots), organizing public hearings, and drafting a bill for the Oregon House of Representatives. Philosophy and economics courses required devising innovative solutions for new problems. These skills, among others that I gained from a variety of other subjects at Portland State, have contributed greatly to my personal and professional success. 

Most importantly, I was encouraged to think freely and creatively in my economics courses, which greatly expanded my academic interests, and I am now applying to graduate programs in continental philosophy and critical theory. Recently, I’ve been researching the role of cybernetic technologies within theories of labor, value, and revolution; studying the methods and effects of de-politicization; and interpreting the market-centered view of equality related to the growing relationship between capitalism and feminism. My future in graduate school, which seems inspired by my undergraduate studies at Portland State, should assist me in refining these theories. Without the courses I took in economics at Portland State, my appreciation for philosophy would not have flourished in the same way and I look forward to continuing my studies.

Maijah Rasmussen, Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, Class of 2014

Graduating from PSU in 2014 led me to a wealth of opportunities, namely the chance to teach abroad in South Korea and France for the past couple years. My International Development Studies degree and TESL certificate prepared me to dive headfirst into another culture, discovering multiple languages, lifestyles, and world perspectives. Although I didn’t major in economics, I highly regard the economics classes that I completed because they allowed me to specify my international development focus with an additional economic component. 

Classes such as International Economics and the Economics of Developing Countries furthered my understanding of the effects of globalization on a monetary scale. My econ professors gave me the freedom to explore my particular global interests in class. I researched French colonialism in West Africa and it’s effect on the region’s cocoa market in my Comparative Economics Systems class. In my Developmental Economic Systems class, I researched and presented on the effects of emigration remittances on the poverty rate in Senegal. This research helped me better understand Senegal’s economy before studying abroad in Dakar in 2012. The economic professors that I worked with were always willing to meet outside class to help me with questions, whether it was related to editing an essay or understanding a previous concept from class. These professors made my undergraduate experience noteworthy. They motivated me to further progress my studies and improve my final product for class. 

Now that I look toward completing my masters in education, I am appreciative of having these experiences working with extraordinarily invested professors. They established a model for how I would also like to define myself as a teacher- one who is supportive of students’ goals and interests all the while setting high expectations. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities, knowledge, and relationships that I gained from working with the PSU faculty during my undergrad experience. I’m a better teacher today because of them. 

Tyler Williams, Bachelor of Arts, Class of 2012:

I graduated from Portland State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 2012. As of March 2016, I am halfway through the Spring Term of my second year at Harvard Law School. With almost two-thirds of law school behind me, I can say with certainty that my Portland State economics degree benefits me in several ways. It introduced me to a similar way of thinking; developed my skills as a student; and introduced me to topics, concepts, and terms that I encounter on a regular basis in law school.

I did not start out knowing I wanted to major in economics. Instead, I enrolled in my first economics course because I wanted to understand the recession that dominated headlines at the time. While those early classes exposed me to rules and concepts that helped explain what was happening with the economy, they also made me realize that I had stumbled upon a powerful tool that could be used to explain almost anything that interested me. My decision to major in economics has helped me develop skills and knowledge that I use in law school. 

My professors at Portland State challenged me and forced me to develop skills that I use every day in law school. I learned to analyze and to think critically and logically which helped me in writing my honors thesis. Writing, specifically writing economic papers, required me to develop hypotheses, research, draw conclusions, and articulate the rules that supported my conclusions. I do these things in every law school paper and on every law school exam. 

There is considerable overlap between law and economics. Many of the concepts and terms I learned at Portland State appear in the cases I read and as policy rationales behind legislation covered in class. Whenever topics I covered at PSU overlap with my current studies and I know the basics beforehand, it is very helpful because I am able to understand the law better.   

Lawyers’ arguments and judges’ decisions are often economic in nature. Because I understand the economic terms and concepts discussed by lawyers and judges, I can follow their arguments and appreciate how persuasive they actually are.  

Additionally, many scholars analyze the law through an economic lens. These scholars believe that laws should be designed with economic concepts in mind making the exercise of calculating damages an economics problem. Given the probability of detection, what is the appropriate sanction that will prevent actors from violating the law except in those cases where it is socially beneficial for them to do so?  

Every day I am proud that I am here. I am proud because my decision to study economics at Portland State University prepared me to succeed at Harvard Law School.

Joseph Woit, Bachelor of Science, Class of 2015

It feels as if it was just yesterday I was studying on the bottom floor of Millar Library, pacing the economics and psychology sections for references and new avenues to explore. Now, here I am reflecting on my undergraduate experience, current undertakings, and future steps for my professional life. Dual studies in economics and social science fetched me two Bachelor of Science degrees from Portland State this past April of 2015. Since then, new adventures and opportunities have only increased the speed with which I have perceived time’s passing. 

The environment at Portland State facilitated an undergraduate education I feel fortunate to own. I was able to navigate several disciplines in my studies, aiding my intellectual growth and sculpting a diverse tool set that has prepared me for professional life and graduate academia. I most appreciate the professors who challenged me and guided my work. Without them, my education would have been trivial and unfulfilling. It should be in every student’s agenda to know their professors personally and professionally.

Currently, I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Statistics at the University of Utah. Economic and social science theory propelled me to pursue my desire to discover more quantitative, descriptive models for behavior. I believe a Ph.D. in Economics is still in order for me soon after my Master’s education, but I am open to other possibilities.

My education prepared me both academically and professionally. Research has always been a passion and I was fortunate enough to have found an analyst position with that focus. Survey and data analysis comprise most of my position’s tasks, but these closely tie into the program measurement, marketing schemes and decision environments I’ve contributed to designing. It has been rewarding, to say the least, working in a position that utilizes a skill set crafted by my studies. With that noted, I only hope to continue my professional growth alongside my academic pursuits, synthesizing the two for my personal betterment.