2016-2017 Ensley Fellowship Awardees Announced

The Department of Economics congratulates the recipients of the 2016-17 Grover and Creta Ensley Graduate Fellowship in Economic Policy: Jenny Ho, Shih-Tang Hwu, and Alexander (Sasha) Rodivilov.

The Ensley Fellowship, which provides support comparable to a teaching or research assistantship, is perhaps the most prestigious student award offered by the Economics Department. Its purpose is to create a pool of economists trained in the application of theoretical and technical economic knowledge to policy formation and to increase the involvement of economists in policy-making and administration.

Created in 1996 by alumnus Dr. Grover W. Ensley (BA ’37, MBA ’38), the award is generally given to 4th-year students who have a well-developed dissertation topic and a strong interest in policy implications for the public sector or private industry. Part of the application process for this very competitive award includes a 15-minute presentation to an audience of both faculty and professional economists, during which applicants must demonstrate their ability to clearly communicate economic ideas in understandable and convincing ways. 

5th-year student Jenny Ho is working with Professors Pat Bajari and Robert Halvorsen to use hedonic housing models, enhanced by big data methods from the computer science literature, to study the effects of public policies on housing markets. According to Prof. Halvorsen, “Hedonic housing models express the price of a house as a function of its attributes, such as lot size, structural variables, and environmental variables. The use of big-data methods makes it possible to include a far more comprehensive set of attributes than in the previous literature.” Jenny teaches intermediate and introductory macroeconomics.

4th-year student Alexander (Sasha) Rodivilov is working with Professors Jacques Lawarree and Fahad Khalil on strategic experimentation in contract theory. “Sasha’s thesis involves modeling learning in a dynamic setting in order to capture a central tradeoff: longer periods of experimentation will yield better information, but that will also increase asymmetric information between the principal and agent, which affects efficiency of outcomes adversely. This research provides insights on the efficient design of experiments, e.g., in drug trials,” according to Prof. Khalil. Sasha teaches intermediate microeconomics and introductory macroeconomics.

4th-year student Shih-Tang Hwu is working with Professors Yanqin Fan and Chang-Jin Kim on developing new econometric methodologies that may have important applications in evaluating treatment effects and in analyzing financial time series such as stock returns. His job market paper, “Estimating the Elasticity of Inter-temporal Substitution when Instruments are Weak: Identification Through Time-Varying Volatility” deals with a technically very challenging and practically extremely important issue, i.e., estimation and inference in the presence of endogeneity with weak instrumental variable (IV). Although the paper is motivated by the estimation and inference for the elasticity of inter-temporal substitution, the methodology developed in the paper is potentially applicable in empirical work in diverse areas in economics such as labor and public economics where endogeneity is prevalent.

Grover Ensley spent much of his professional life contributing to the formulation of economic policy and administration, beginning his career in the Executive Office of the President under Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 and later serving as Executive Director of the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress from 1949-1957. After leaving government, Dr. Ensley served as President of the National Association of Mutual Savings Banks and subsequently the International Savings Banks Institute. This fellowship was established as a continuation of the long interest of Grover and his wife Creta in the contributions economists make to policy and administration in both the public and private sectors. Dr. Ensley passed away in August 2000.

Alumni and friends of the department are invited to support graduate student research by making a contribution to the Ensley Graduate Fellowship.