The economics major at Duquesne was established in 2000. Building from the ground up, the faculty’s goal was that Duquesne would become known as the best university in the country for undergraduate economics. To produce an economics program that would not merely be comparable to, but that would dominate those of the Ivy Leagues, the faculty took the econometrics curricula offered at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and MIT, doubled it, added research requirements to four courses, and added a Senior Thesis requirement. Duquesne economics majors graduate with 12 to 15 credits just in analytics – and that is in addition to the economics courses required for the major. In their final analytics course, Forecasting Techniques, the students write their own statistical software that they then use to conduct their econometric research. To track their progress, the faculty selected student publications in academic journals and presentations at academic conferences as their metric of success – not publications in student journals, but student publications in journals.
Following four courses’ worth of training in conducting research and writing academic papers, the students begin their senior theses. Senior Thesis is a required, one-semester, self-directed research project in which each student picks a topic, conducts research, and produces a publishable contribution to the economics literature. The experience culminates with the students defending their theses in front of a panel of faculty and experts from outside the university. Says one faculty member, “At the start of their thesis experience, we tell the students that we expect them to become experts on the topics they research. That they are undergraduates is irrelevant. We evaluate the students with the same rigor that we would evaluate our own colleagues. In return, those who pass the thesis (and the failure rate is not insignificant) we regard as colleagues.” Today, the economics major graduates between 10 and 15 students a year. Of these, half present their senior theses at academic conferences, or publish them in academic journals or public policy briefs.
To date, Duquesne’s economics majors have produced more than 30 academic papers, public policy briefs, and conference presentations, and their research has been cited in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.
In addition to their senior theses, each year several rising Seniors receive Commonwealth Foundation Research Fellowships for which they conduct research and publish policy briefs on economic issues relevant to Pennsylvania. In their final semester, the top half-dozen Seniors are awarded Koch Research Fellowships for which they conduct and publish research on any economics topics they choose.
Today, two-thirds of Duquesne’s economics majors go on for graduate studies at law schools, and economics PhD and masters programs – almost all with scholarships and graduate stipends. Those who choose to start their working careers are typically hired prior to graduation for positions as business analysts, financial analysts, marketing research analysts, or government analysts.