University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Laura L. Hunt

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Mar 18, 2009 
Economics research ranking back on top
Photos by Peter Jakubowski
Econ Profs ((L-R) Scott Drewianka, associate professor, Niloy Bose, professor, and Keith Bender, associate professor, enjoy a student and alumni gathering last fall.

The University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Economics Department faculty scored a collective coup in the last year by dramatically increasing their rankings in research productivity as reported by one of the discipline’s most prestigious journals.

At the same time, the department has experienced record graduate enrollment and an increase in faculty exposure in the local and national media.

Swarnit Arora Recent economics graduate Tranace Buchanan (left) talks with Professor Swarnjit Arora.

A study in the April 2008 issue of the Southern Economic Journalrated theresearch productivity of faculty in the top 129 economics doctoral degree-granting institutions in the nation.

UWM’s economics faculty productivity in labor economics ranked in the top third (35th) and those in industrial organization placed in near the top third (47th). Faculty in economic developmentandurban economics placed 51st among the institutions, and international economics came in 53rd.

These rankings by subfield are significant because they allow an equal assessment for institutions that have achieved excellence in the various subfields of economics, regardless of their overall size, says Richard Schuler, professor of economics and civil engineering at Cornell, and member of the nonprofit research organization the Santa Fe Institute.

&dquo;The Economics Department is a center of excellence at UWM, as reported recently by the Southern Economic Journal,” says Schuler, &dquo;and its splendid accomplishments have been realized with rather meager resources in comparison with many academic departments at other institutions.”

This is not the first time UWM’s department has been so highly ranked, says Professor and Department Chair Bill Holahan.

The department was launched in the 1960s with the hiring of a roster of top scholars. But shrinking resources in the 1980s caused the department to lose prominence, he says. Since 1964, the department has offered the only Ph.D. program in economics in Wisconsin besides UW–Madison.

Interest in both the graduate and undergraduate economics degrees have increased significantly in recent years. Current graduate enrollment is 100, an all-time high. The department also has seen a large growth in undergraduates. The number of majors from October 2007 to October 2008 increased 38 percent, while the number of minors grew 39 percent.

&dquo;We’ve worked hard to recover from past cutbacks and now we offer a higher-quality degree program than ever before,” says Holahan.

Among the department’s other recent accomplishments:

  • Scott Adams was appointed to serve this year as a senior economist at the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) in Washington, D.C. In this position, Adams is one of 10 economists who work with the three CEA members who advise the president on economic matters. A study by Adams was also featured in the April issue of The Economist magazine.
  • James Peoples is president of the National Economics Association and president-elect of the Transportation and Public Utilities Group of the American Economic Association.
  • Mohsen Bahmani-Oskoeeand John Heywood are included among the top 5 percent in productivity in the standard professional reference for economic research productivity, IDEAS.
  • John Heywood was named the first UWM Distinguished Professor in Economics. He also is a recipient of the UWM Alumni Association Award for Teaching Excellence.
  • Holahan was recently identified as one of the Top 50 Economists for Teaching-Focused Research Productivity by the Southern Economic Journal.
  • Since the beginning of 2008, faculty have given more than 30 interviews to the media, including several high-profile interviews by Keith Bender with the BBC World Service, ABC News and U.S. News and World Report. See the details at:

For more about UWM’s Economics Department go to: