New Gifts Endow Economics’ Robert Sandy Seminar Series

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwo gifts to the Department of Economics in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI have endowed the Robert Sandy Seminar Series, ensuring that economics students and faculty will continue to interact with some of the discipline’s brightest researchers.

The gifts were made by professor emeritus of economics Robert Sandy and economics alumnus David Driscoll.

The seminar series began as a means to make the economics department more visible, says Professor Emeritus Robert Sandy, who served as the economics department chair for 12 years before finishing his career as an administrator within the Indiana University President’s Office. “One way the seminar helped with the visibility of the department is we would invite faculty from nearby universities to give talks and then they would meet the department and see there were people here who were serious scholars. We built a reputation step-by-step through the seminar,” he says.

As an undergraduate student at IUPUI in the late 1970s, David Driscoll was in the department in its early years. He was aware of the growth of his undergrad program as he earned his master’s and then moved to Boston and began a career as an actuary.

Driscoll has made various gifts to IUPUI and the Economics Department, also helping fund the Robert Kirk New Economics Major Award. He says the Seminar Series is good for students who get to see how economists go about developing their ideas and researching their topics.

“It’s wonderful to imagine that over the past 30-some years the department has grown so much both in terms of the quantity and quality of the faculty, and that it’s expanded immensely in terms of teaching, the research it turns out, and its reputation,” Driscoll says. “To play a small part in helping facilitate that growth is something I’m very happy to have been able to do.”

“The department’s seminar series is aptly named for our colleague Bob Sandy who worked so effectively on behalf of the department to advance its research reputation,” said William Blomquist, dean of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. “We’re very grateful to Bob and to our alumnus David Driscoll for their generosity which ensures the series’ permanence as well as its prominence.”

Today the Robert Sandy Seminar Series features presentations on emerging topics of interest to department faculty and students as well as specialized sessions on specific economics questions. The 2013-2014 seminars kicked off with acclaimed economist Dan Hamermesh from the University of Texas Austin.

IUPUI faculty and graduate students also present their research, says Professor Henry Mak, the Seminar Series coordinator. All are encouraged to present work-in-progress and use the feedback that comes through the Seminar to enhance their research products.

“In addition to the seminars, usually we have individual meetings between the speaker and faculty and the speaker and grad students,” Mak says. “So the faculty members can benefit from interacting with the speaker and the students can also benefit because they can talk about their own research and get some feedback.”

“We were pretty close to off-the-charts when the seminar began-near the bottom of econ departments around the nation,” Sandy says. “[Ten years later] we were competitive with Ph.D. programs around the nation. The culture of the department changed. The seminar makes a huge difference and with my and David’s gifts, I hope the department can draw an even wider circle of influence.”