Carley Dubinski looked expectantly at her audience. The DePaul undergraduate
economics major had just finished presenting her research paper at the Student
Economic Conference hosted by Driehaus School of Business, detailing her
findings on the effects of alcohol on workers. It was the first research paper
Dubinski had ever presented to an audience, and she was unsure of its impact.
“I was just looking for some kind of feedback,” Dubinski
said at the conference on May 8. “I’m just learning econometrics and there’s a
lot I don’t know. But I was so glad to share my research. It was great to share
my work and to see what people thought about it.”
Dubinski’s words are Laura Owen’s hopes come true. Owen,
associate professor of economics in the Driehaus College of Business, heads the
university’s undergraduate economics program. (See Laura
Owen’s faculty bio here.)
Owen coordinated the inaugural annual Student Economic Conference this spring
with the help of a program committee featuring economics professors John
F. Berdell, Gabriella
Buccci and Rafael
A. Tenorio. The conference had 30 student presenters, and that
speaks to Owen’s egalitarian philosophy when it comes to teaching economics. For
Owen, economics is not just the purview of the data-driven economist. It’s also
a pathway for students to understand the world in which they live.
“When teaching economics principles classes, you’re often teaching
the only economics class a student will take,” says Owen. “I always focused on
economic literacy. I believe for students to make good decisions about what’s
going on in the world, no matter their discipline, it’s better to have a basic
understanding of how the economy works.”
Passion for Studying Economics
As a teenager living in San Antonio, Texas, Owen was
selected for a National Science Foundation summer program. She spent six weeks
studying the basics of economics at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.
“I was very intrigued by the theoretical nature of economics
and thinking about modeling human behavior,” says Owen. “I had not been exposed
to that type of thinking before and I knew that I wanted to study it.”
After high school, Owen went on to undergraduate studies in
economics at Vassar College and eventually earned her masters and PhD in
economics from Yale University. That’s where she began her research
specialty—American economics history in the labor market circa early 20th
Her research has been published in major academic journals,
including the Journal of Economic History. Currently, she’s examining patterns
of part-time employment in the United States and Canada and its costs to
employees between 1955 and 1975.
Owen says she was particularly inspired by her professors to
continue her studies in economics and eventually she decided to teach in the
field. Yet, even though she was passionate about the subject, she found that as
a woman she as an “oddity,” in her classes and within academia.
“In graduate school out of 50 professors there were only two
women,” she says. “And in a graduate class of 24 students there were only four
women. I suppose it was a challenge, but I had incredibly supportive professors
and I made it through.”
DePaul's Economics Program Distinction
In 1990 Owen arrived at DePaul for her first teaching
assignment and has been here ever since. Owen says it’s the diversity of
DePaul’s faculty that distinguishes the university’s program from others.
“We have a faculty with a very broad range of interests, and
a lot of different viewpoints are represented,” says Owen. “We also have a
policy orientation to our program (and) a more empirical orientation to the
research of our faculty, and this filters down into their teaching.”
Back at the Students Economics Conference, Owen’s quiet
manner and soft-spoken voice belied her excitement. She was surprised so many
students participated in the conference and was overjoyed that students at the
conference actually had an audience in which to present their papers.
“I am pleased with our first run of the conference,” she
says. “Several students have thanked us for providing a forum for them to
present their work. It’s gratifying that they are leaving with a positive view
of this experience and it convinces me that we should continue offering this
opportunity to future students.
Want to learn more about studying economics at DePaul?