Rebecca Jorgensen

photo of Rebecca Jorgensen

  • BS in Quantitative Economics and Mathematics (2016)
  • MA in Economics (2016)
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
  • served as undergraduate assistant in economics for 4 semesters at Miami

My Profession

"Before becoming a full-time doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, I was working as a research assistant (RA) for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. My research group, Financial Structure, worked primarily on policy related to the stability and structure of the banking sector and lending to small businesses. Most of the economists in my section specialized in industrial organization research.

"As a research assistant, I assisted the economists with policy work and their academic research. That could mean a lot of different things depending on the day. I might have been making charts to go into a policy document, looking at a new data set, writing statistical code, or all three.

"I started at Miami thinking I wanted to combine my interest in economics and math skills in a career as an actuary. After taking associate professor of economics Charles C. Moul's intermediate micro theory course, I started to think about graduate school instead. My sophomore year, the economics department encouraged me to apply for the USS program at Miami, and I spent the summer working on an independent research project with Julian Lange Professor of Economics Melissa A. Thomasson. Even though that project never came to fruition, I really enjoyed the research process, and started to seriously think that a PhD was in my future.

"I spent part of my junior year working on a second research project with associate professor Deborah Fletcher, which I eventually presented at a conference. I then spent the following summer interning in a research group at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, which confirmed my love of research.

"On the advice of some of my faculty mentors, my senior year I participated in Miami's Combined BA-MA program to earn my MA in my senior year. I had effectively finished both of my majors by then, and I didn't want to graduate a year early, so my professors suggested that getting my master's would give me a good taste of what moving on to graduate school for my doctorate would be like.

"I had enjoyed my time at the Chicago Fed, so in the fall of my senior year I applied for an RA position at the Board of Governors, which had economists working on research related to what I eventually want to study.

"I was hired after graduating with my dual degrees, and then last fall I started a PhD program at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. I'm currently working on my PhD in economics, with an end goal of working in an academic institution or for a government agency."

Best Miami Experiences

"During my sophomore year at Miami, I lived in the Scholar Leader community. That fall semester before finals week, we had a snowball fight around the University Seal and then made hot chocolate and watched the movie Elf in the Elliott common room. It was a great night to kick off the weekend of studying ahead!

"The following Thursday (during finals week), a group of us ended up staying up far too late discussing life. My differential equations final the next day was a bit rough (it turned out fine in the end), but I wouldn't trade that night for anything.

"On the academic side of things, I got a lot of research experience at Miami, and that has been a major asset in my career so far. Knowing how research works, and how to talk about research has made me more able to do the things the economists need me to do, and also to contribute meaningful ideas to projects I'm working on. Because I had experience coding in the main languages we use for research, I knew how to do things early on, which helped me become an effective part of the group.

"Mentorship was definitely the biggest influence I've had at Miami. My phenomenal mentors in the economics department really pushed and guided me as I tried to figure out how to get where I wanted to go. I knew nothing about applying to graduate school or research, and they spent hours with me over my 4 years and beyond discussing my opportunities, reading applications, teaching me about research, giving pep talks when necessary, and so much more. I don't think I would be where I am today without their guidance.

"Another key Miami experience was the 4 semesters I spent as a undergraduate assistant (UA) for my economics classes. Besides being enjoyable, this is how I learned to communicate effectively with people, explain economics, and understand my field better as a result.

"Applying for a Truman Scholarship was also deeply influential to me. This was the first time I'd really had to articulate a research idea and think about how I could work on economic research that might have policy implications. That has since become my goal."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"Economics and math majors can really do a lot of things because both are primarily a way of thinking about the world. Besides graduate school, some of the most common paths are data analytics/data science or market research.

"I first fell in love with economics when I took a required high school econ class. I'd always liked math, and it complemented economics nicely. At Miami, once I was interested in graduate school, I kept my math major because a lot of graduate coursework in economics is applied math.

"As an undergrad at Miami, however, getting a liberal arts education meant that I could take classes that interested me, even if they weren't related to my majors. For example, I took a class in the Department of Comparative Religion on global Christianity, and to this day it remains one of the most interesting classes I've ever taken."

Advice to Students

"First, talk to your professors. Most of my biggest growth opportunities have come from conversations with professors.

"Second, go for the thing that scares you or challenges you. Moving to DC after graduation was terrifying, especially because I knew only one other person here. Now I'm so glad I did it! Likewise, I had no idea I'd get an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, but I applied anyways, and now here we are.

"Third, don't worry so much if things don't look like you imagined or like your friends' lives right away. Graduating and moving into the real world is hard, and it isn't always super glamorous. You'll get there, and you'll learn a lot about yourself along the way. Stop comparing yourself to other people.

"Everyone's path is different, and that doesn't make one better than the other. Enjoy your time at Miami while you're there. It goes fast, and it really is a special place with special people. Take advantage of that fact. Love and honor!"

[January 2019]