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Five Kinds of People Who Study Global Economic Affairs

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Korbel Communications

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There’s a point in your life when your studies and life experiences help you to shape and define for yourself what kind of person you are. What drives you? What’s your purpose? Are you the kind of person who studies Global Economic Affairs at the University of Denver Josef Korbel School of International Studies?

Here are five kinds of people who enroll in the Global Economic Affairs (GEA) master’s program and get the skills to make sense of the world’s complex economic issues. Are you one of them?

1. Global thinker who wants to make a difference

If you care deeply about social and economic opportunity and inclusion, you will find a home in GEA.

“Our students are deeply engaged in the world,” said GEA Co-director George DeMartino. “They see political economy training as giving them insight and influence, a lever to make a difference in the world.”

GEA alumni go on to careers in public policy, ethical supply chain management, social and corporate responsibility and more. While mainstream economics programs focus on abstract math and teach students to promote efficiency above all else, GEA brings in core values like equity, justice, opportunity and sustainability.

“A master’s degree focused on economics was the route I wanted to go, but I was also really interested in international affairs,” said GEA alumna Lauren Craig ’18, senior associate on the international trade and customs team at KPMG US.

Craig remembers class discussions about workplace safety practices at multi-national corporations, free versus fair trade, and the environmental impacts of national trade agreements. With experience working for non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), she enjoyed digging into labor issues in high-export countries like Bangladesh, China and India.

“If you’re driven to make a better world, standard economics training is going to fail you,” DeMartino said. “GEA students want to do well for themselves while doing well for the world. They need values-based training that can provide the means and the moral compass to make a difference.”


2. Ambitious professional looking for international opportunities and powerful connections

Most GEA students have jobs lined up before graduation. With professional prospects in all sectors – public, private, NGO, and multilateral – grads end up everywhere from the World Bank or International Monetary Fund to the United States Trade and Development Agency or the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Our students do very well on the job market competing for and securing the positions they seek, reflecting their interests and aspirations,” said GEA Co-director Ilene Grabel.

She said currently there are GEA alumni working in economic development policy consulting in Zambia, for an international NGO in France, in ethical supply chain management for Apple, as a foreign service officer for the United States Department of State in Latin America and as a high-ranking official in the U.S. government.

“GEA students have been very successful in finding jobs that let them flourish and contribute to global betterment in ways that gratify them,” said GEA professor Josiah Hatch.

And proof that the degree focuses on today’s most pressing economic issues: Several GEA alumni are on a policy analysis team working with the State of Colorado to address the budget crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Craig believes the GEA program was essential to both her State Department internship as a student and her current job at KPMG.

“I knew Korbel had a really good reputation, and it was rewarding to know that I was at a school recognized by diplomats in the State Department,” she said.

Even during the program, GEA students have significant professional opportunities. For instance, students regularly secure internships at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva, Switzerland. Many students earn Boren Fellowships or become Presidential Management Fellows. And these opportunities often result in permanent positions.

The school is a hub that helps set you up for jobs at big institutions,” said Current GEA student Suraj Thapa. “If that’s what you want, this is where you should come.

Thapa would like to get a job at a state agency doing economic policy analysis and research, and early in his final semester, he was already interviewing for multiple positions.


3. Driven student with specific research interests

You certainly don’t have to have an undergraduate degree in economics to thrive in this program. In fact, about half of GEA students didn’t major in economics as undergrads. All you need is an interest in the world and a passion to learn about the most pressing economic issues we face today.

Instead of restricting you to one area of study, a GEA degree opens the door for your individual interests and passions.

“GEA fosters students who can apply rigorous intellectual skills, but who learn what they need to follow their hearts toward jobs and careers that reflect what they believe they stand for and wish to do with their lives,” Hatch said.

Craig was able to deepen her study in her passion area, the Middle East geographic region while bolstering her economics credentials. Other available areas of GEA specialization include environmental studies, international business, and development policy.

“Through coursework and personal research, you can specialize in niche things you’re interested in and still have room for more opportunities,” Craig said. “GEA doesn’t pigeon-hole you.”

You might even find funding to follow your interests. Working at Korbel’s Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures, Thapa utilized Python programming software to extract data from state-level legislative websites, and used the idea to earn a grant for his own research and start a non-profit.

“Students come here because something really moves them,” DeMartino said. “Our job is to help launch them so that they can do the work they aspire to. “


4. Econ fanatic who cares about real-world problems

If you love numbers, stats, and data and believe in their power to help solve problems, this is the place for you.

“Most economics programs are essentially applied mathematics,” said GEA Co-director DeMartino, “where you study data and theories, but with little attention to larger contexts or policy relevance.”

Korbel’s GEA degree incorporates the study of political economy, built on a solid economics foundation. As a student, you’re empowered to build skills to evaluate systems, engage policymakers and create solutions for global issues.

It’s not just econ for econ’s sake.

“Our program is thoroughly interdisciplinary because econ is not all you need to have a profession in the world,” DeMartino said. “We connect what happens in the classroom with what happens in the world, so students can actually use what they’re learning, rather than having useless formulas in their heads that have no bearing on what’s going on in the world.”

You might call it “a liberal arts approach to economics” – political economy with practical relevance.

“I’m still studying all the things I love – international trade, monetary relations, and finance,” said student Thapa, “but I get a different perspective that I wouldn’t get at any other program. It changes how you see the world.”

And you’ll still gain the economic and trade theory knowledge you need to be respected in the field.

“Every class involves theory and models, but classes aren’t just numbers and charts,” alumna Craig said. “You dig into analysis and get an understanding of how economic and trade theory applies to current events and real-world scenarios.”

“We teach what all the mainstream econ programs teach and then move far beyond all that,” DeMartino said.


5. Aspiring leader who thrives through community

If you feel your best when you have the support of a community, you’ll probably feel pretty awesome in the GEA program.

First off, you’ll have the support of a dozen highly qualified faculty members. Some are full-time academics, and some are practitioners. The faculty are thoroughly interdisciplinary, with backgrounds in economics, political science, sociology, statistics, international business, internal law, and social entrepreneurship.

“My GEA professors were so invested in our success and really wanted to develop relationships with their students,” said Craig, who remembers DeMartino and Grabel hosting the students at their home each year. And they have supported her even after graduation, serving as professional references and sometimes checking in just to see how she’s doing.

When Craig was job hunting, she also relied on support from the network of more than 600 GEA alumni. She was able to call them directly for support and advice, and now students and recent grads reach out to her in the same way.

“GEA alumni are really invested in the success of current students,” Craig said. “We all are so proud of our degree that we want the program and other students to be successful.”

Graduating 20-30 students a year, the GEA program is small enough for everyone to get to know one another, and faculty foster a non-competitive atmosphere.

“There’s such camaraderie,” Craig said. “We knew each other well and cared about how each other were doing.”

She said the Korbel and GEA student organizations help solidify the student group, as they plan and organize speaker and networking events. Now that she’s an alum, she goes back to speak at these events.

Thapa, who is president of the Korbel Graduate Student Association, agrees that GEA students are a tight-knit bunch. They have class together and then often hang out, study together, and cook for each other. Some of them work together at the Pardee Center. They all share information about job opportunities and celebrate one another’s success.

Since the pandemic necessitated social distancing, Thapa and his classmates study together via Zoom. They don’t talk much, just read silently together, holding one another accountable and feeling less alone.

“We go through all these experiences together, which is so helpful,” Thapa said. “If you want to have a good experience, you’ll have it here.”


So, show what kind of person you are. Come to DU and get your master’s degree in Global Economic Affairs at Korbel! Join us in making sense of today’s complex economic issues. Get a job you love. Give your career a power boost. Make a difference in the world.