December 04, 2009

Lahiri shares foreign aid expertise in Belgium

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Sajal Lahiri, Vandeveer Professor of Economics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, recently returned from the Joint European Commission UNDP (United Nations Development Programme)/HDRO (Human Development Reports) on Human Development and Development Cooperation.

The meeting was at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The consultation meeting anticipates the 20th anniversary of the Human Development Report of the United Nations. Lahiri was present to share his expertise on the design and effect of foreign aid.

Lahiri’s participation in such elite international company underscores a key point students may find as they delve into the study of economics -- it’s not about money, it’s about people.

Subhash Sharma, professor of economics and interim chair of the department, said economics often is a “discovered major” for students. They begin their studies in another field and then discover that the study of economics provides them with a better or a different road to their specific academic goals.

Scott Gilbert, associate professor and the director of undergraduate studies, said many incoming freshmen don’t think about economics as a possible major because economics is not part of many high school curriculums.

“Economics integrates a lot of areas,” Sharma said, noting that the concepts studied in economics apply to studies in other areas of liberal arts such as sociology, philosophy, history and political science, as well as in other fields such as journalism, finance, and law, including corporate law.

“Our graduates are very well placed,” Sharma said. “We have graduates working in banking and international finance, investment firms, federal and state agencies, the World Bank, in law and in industry, and as consultants.”

One reason for the flexibility of a degree in economics is that economics students learn quantitative skills, such as statistics. Their analytical ability also incorporates a broad, often global, approach, making their problem solving creative and their research methodologies inclusive.

Gilbert noted that the theories and concepts students learn in economics apply to business, but are not necessarily taught in business colleges.
“It’s number crunching in a different context,” he said. “Economists test theories that apply to the day to day, to standards of living and developing economies as well as to business.”

To learn more about the Department of Economics, including the many scholarships available for all majors meeting the grade point average requirement, visit