By Elizabeth Hilberg
Levin Learns Life Lessons from his U of M Economics Major.
Mequon, Wisconsin has a lot to offer. The Milwaukee suburb overlooks the western shore of Lake Michigan, boasting lush farmland, well-kept homes, and plenty of parks and golf courses. But the "City of Trees" has a lesser-known claim to fame; it's also the hometown of budding economist Daniel Levin '06.
Daniel's interest in economics wasn't exactly homegrown, however. Neither of his parents even dabbles in the social sciences (his mother works in corporate communications; his father is a real-estate appraiser). "As far as I know, nobody in the history of my family has been into economics. The closest we come is an uncle who's a banker," Daniel jokes. He does credit his brother, David, a 2004 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts in economics, with helping inspire his foray into the world of supply and demand.
Like Daniel, David didn't set out to major in economics, but once he started taking classes he was hooked. He's now following through on his passion by working as an economist in the Consumer Price Index Division of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Labor. When the brothers have gotten together, the talk has often turned to widgets: "It's remarkable how much time we can kill talking about economics subjects," Daniel says. "It's sort of dorky, but entertaining and interesting at the same time."
By the end of Daniel's sophomore year, he knew he had to try out economics for himself. "I always had the intention of majoring in political science, but halfway through my sophomore year I felt like I needed to be more well-rounded as a student and as a thinker, so I decided to add economics," says Daniel. "I chose it because I could see how much my brother was enjoying it, plus it was something I had always found interesting. But I didn't know much about the department when I made the decision. I just sort of jumped in."
A year and a half later, he can hardly stop singing the praises of the department. Of his favorite upper-level courses, international trade and public economics, he says they "struck the perfect balance between derivation of theory and application of concepts, real-world data, and debate." Top-notch professors and graduate student instructors further inspire him. "You are taught to connect the principles and theories and make actual judgments about the world around you," he says. "When you turn on the TV and hear someone proposing something about taxes, you can formulate an opinion that's reasonable and informed."
Taxes have become more than a passing interest for Daniel. As he enters his senior year, he's focused on applying to law school, where he plans to study international tax law. He'll be squeezing in the applications in the little time he has between serving as president of the local chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, serving on the board at Hillel: The Jewish Student Center, and several other student groups--not to mention the double major.
But according to Daniel, his experience in the economics department has prepared him well for the pressure. In fact, he ventures to say that his economics degree has given him the tools he needs to think through almost any problem in life. "What I gain most from the economics curriculum is a unique approach to understanding the world," he says. "Economists take a very complicated subject and try to distill the whole big pot down to the few things that are the most important.
"I think that's an approach to the world that can be very valuable. You can't get bogged down in the details all the time." Sage advice, indeed.