Catchin’ Up with...Elena Ramirez
For many, college is a time to figure out what you’re passionate about and the career you want to pursue. For me, it was different. I knew from the first day of my freshman year at Salisbury University that I wanted to become an economist. As I soon came to learn, however, I had absolutely no idea what that entailed. But, I never lost sight of the goals I had for myself, and thanks to the opportunities I pursued while at SU, I’m proud to be one of 20 first-year doctoral students in economics at University of Maryland College Park.
I began my time at SU during fall 2010 as an economics major, and that year, I completed the two mathematics requirements of the major. Thinking that I was done with math, I focused on other areas of my major. What I had yet to learn was that if I ever wanted to become an economist, I needed to take what essentially amounted to a math major worth of math classes. The first I learned of this was through a conversation I had during my junior year with my intermediate microeconomics professor about my goal. This marked a turning point in my time at SU; I realized the value of seeking out career advice from my mentors, and that I had some speeding up to do if I was ever going to compete in a quantitatively intense field of study.
To catch up, I filled the remainder of my three semesters with advanced math courses and began to seriously pursue research opportunities. The next crucial thing I learned from my economics professors at SU about graduate study was the importance of research experience. I searched for research opportunities and I applied to and completed the 2013 Summer Research Initiative program at UMD. Through this research experience, I had the opportunity to work directly with professors and economists from The World Bank on a food security experiment based in Malawi. Working with development economists taught me how economic research was conducted, and it also taught me what it would take to one day reach their level. Due to this motivation, I graduated from SU in 2014 with the highest university honors as an economics major, business minor and as the Outstanding Senior in Economics.
Immediately following graduation, I accepted a position as a research assistant at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, where I worked for three years, in the last year becoming a research associate. I had the incredible opportunity of working with economists conducting research on the effects of U.S. federal and state tax policy that was routinely quoted in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc., as well as used for hearings and in legislation on Capitol Hill. Concurrently to my full-time position, I took advanced math classes at UMD to make my graduate application as competitive as possible. When taking high-level math classes and working a full-time job got intense, I never lost sight of what it was I was pursuing, and I knew that it was solely up to me to actively seek opportunities for myself and work to succeed at them.
Everything from my first day at SU contributed to my success in entering the extremely competitive and challenging world of economic graduate study. The key to success unequivocally lies in persevering through challenges and keeping yourself focused on your ultimate goal. Therefore, I strongly advise students to pursue challenging curriculums during their undergraduate studies, talk to professionals in the careers they wish to pursue to learn the most effective route and, above all, persevere. I am a firm believer that quality education can truly alter life outcomes, and SU provided me the tools necessary to take my career to the next level, as it can to anyone of its students.