Letter from the Chair

By Narayana Kocherlakota

It' been an exciting and busy year for our department

One of our main objectives at the beginning of last year was to grow our faculty. To say that we met that objective would be an understatement. Thanks to strong support from the College and the University, ten new faculty members have joined the department. Five are tenure-track assistant professors; the others are tenured associate and full professors. They are revitalizing our department with a remarkable variety of new research and teaching interests.

We are excited about all of our new hires, and you'll be hearing more about them in future issues of this magazine. But we are especially happy to have been able to recruit Victor Rios-Rull away from the distinguished department of economics at the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania. Victor was a chaired professor at Penn, and will hold the Carlson Chair in economics here. It's a homecoming of sorts: Victor earned his Ph.D. here in 1990.

Victor's research concerns heterogeneity. In traditional macroeconomic models, all of the people have the same sex, they all work at the same mix of jobs, and have the same wealths. Of course, in reality, people differ along these and many other dimensions. In the past fifteen years, a huge amount of research has shown that these intra-population differences can have a big impact on macroeconomic outcomes. Victor is perhaps the leader in this important research area.

Victor is one outstanding example of the kind of success that our graduate students regularly achieve. This success story is an ongoing one: last year, Aleh Tsyvinski (Ph.D. '03), an assistant professor at Harvard, was one of eight economists to win a Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship. But our students' successes aren't limited to the academic setting. Geir Haarde (M.A. '77) became Prime Minister of Iceland in June 2006. In recognition of that, and his many other public accomplishments, Geir received an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota this May.

As it so often does, change has prompted us to pause and take stock in the past. In May, John Chipman became a Regents Professor Emeritus. Over the past half-century, John has made significant contributions to every aspect of the department's and, indeed, the university's life. He has continued to be an important and inspirational figure in the department up until this day. The department thanks him for his many years of dedicated service and wishes him well as he begins this new phase of his life.

As is true of so many, John was brought into our department by Leo Hurwicz. This year Leo turned 90 in August. In honor of this occasion, the department hosted a conference and dinner in Leo's honor on April 14th, declared "Leo Hurwicz Day" by the Governor and the State House of Minnesota. One hundred attendees came from all over the world, including China, Japan, and Spain. At a high-powered conference featuring talks by two Nobel Laureates, it was the dinner that was most remarkable. Speaker after speaker rose to pay tribute to Leo Hurwicz's greatness -- not just as an economist, but as a person. As a whole, the event was both intellectually engaging and emotionally moving. I thought that it was the highlight of my first year as chair and, indeed, of my time at Minnesota.

The Department is moving ahead literally as well as figuratively. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of a 1949 undergraduate alumnus of the department, Herb Hanson, the University is currently building a state-of-the-art facility for us and the Carlson School of Management on the West Bank. The new Hanson Hall will be connected to the current Carlson building via a walkway. Construction is well underway -- stop by the West Bank, and see for yourself! We expect to be in our new digs by the end of next May.

I close, as always, by saying thanks to all of you! The tradition of Minnesota economics can only continue because of your support. If you have any questions or concerns or suggestions, feel free to contact me at 612-625-3810.

Narayana Kocherlakota
professor and chair



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This page contains a single entry by cla published on June 23, 2008 5:35 PM.

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