Excellence in Teaching Award — 2006
Associate Professor of International Management
Teaching at MIT Sloan since: 1998
I truly believe in the value of spending time with people living in different economies around the world. I'm not sure if traveling, which I've always had a passion for, fuels my curiosity, or if my curiosity about other cultures and economies drives my desire to travel. Either way, I am fascinated by other cultures and place tremendous value on experiencing firsthand how different people live, work, interact, and think. This engagement with people from diverse countries has been instrumental in my work in international economics.
When I graduated from the PhD program at MIT and pondered whether to pursue a career in academia or policy, my MIT advisor Rudi Dornbusch spent hours talking with me about the decision and pointing out the benefits of pursuing academics first and policy work later. Now that I've done both, I appreciate the validity of his advice. It's much easier straddling the academic and policy fences when you have the academic credentials and technical research to back up your arguments. Being first and foremost an academic also provides you with more freedom to express your views.
Besides Rudi Dornbusch's advice in shaping my career, I was profoundly affected by the work I did as a research fellow while completing my PhD at MIT. After two years of intensive class work, I looked forward to a “real-world” experience in which I could see the theories from the classroom in action. My wish was granted, in large part by Isher Ahluwalia (a MIT graduate), who helped me obtain work in New Delhi, India. There, I used the tools acquired at MIT to work with different economic models and observe how they did or didn't work in India. It was a real turning point for me. I saw firsthand how physical limitations affected the ability of markets to function. For instance, some grain farmers in isolated areas of India were unable to get a fair market price for their product simply because they didn't have a phone or any other means of communicating to ascertain the going price. In many areas of India, infrastructure problems have significantly hindered growth and development.
One of MIT Sloan's strengths is that it combines research with teaching practices. It truly merges theory and practice — a feat that is possible due to its top-notch research faculty and the faculty's interest in putting their ideas to work. Another plus is the international breadth of its student body. In one class I teach, I introduce a new economic concept each class in the context of a different country. This allows the students to learn about and discuss a different country each day. In almost every case, we have one or more students in class who come from or have worked in these countries. The students share their direct experiences and this greatly contributes to our understanding of various economic issues.
As an economist, I have several concerns about the future. Many major economies — the U.S.'s, Europe's, and Japan's — are not taking steps to prepare for the long-term challenges created by aging populations. If adjustments were made today, these changes would be manageable, but in another 10-15 years, they will be much more difficult. I'm also concerned about the U.S. trade deficit and corresponding global imbalances, as well as the lack of support for free trade and globalization in general. My research explores the impact of capital controls on investment decisions and the effect of financial crises and currency depreciation on companies around the world. I've also done a considerable amount of research and writing about international financial contagion, which is a phenomenon of continuing interest as concerns increase regarding a slowdown in one of the world's major economies (such as China or the United States).
If you asked me to predict what I'll be doing in five or ten years, I would have to say I have no idea. I've had some fantastic opportunities so far — including working for the U.S. Treasury Department and serving as the youngest person on the White House's Council of Economic Advisors — all of which I never expected. I am fortunate to have had so many wonderful experiences. If I had more time, I would do more of everything: research, traveling, hiking, and advising policymakers. I was raised in a family that values time together, so family is also a priority. I am very happy right now teaching and doing research in Cambridge and proud to be a member of the MIT Sloan community.