Degrees earned in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Economics now count as STEM degrees, a classification that highlights the rigorous analytical nature of the School’s offerings and points to where Chair Laura O. Taylor wants to take the program.
In May, the Board of Regents approved the shift in the school’s U.S. Department of Education Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) Code from “general economics” to “econometrics and quantitative economics.” The change, which takes effect this semester, makes Georgia Tech's School of Economics program the only one in the University System of Georgia to have the STEM designation.
“This designation reflects who we are and what we are building in the School of Economics,” Taylor said. “The foundational tools of economics are mathematics and statistics. We couple theoretical models of behavior and decision-making with state of the art data analytics to understand and solve the most important questions facing society and business today.”
Leveraging a ‘Gold-Standard Economics Education’
The new designation will not result in changes to degree programs. It may, however, be a benefit to some foreign students who come to Georgia Tech to study economics. Under U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations, foreign students who obtain STEM degrees may remain in the United States to work for up to three years after graduation under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. Students who earn non-STEM degrees are allowed to remain for only one year.
Casey Hampton, recruitment and retention director, said the new designation will help “increase the visibility and reputation of the School and help us attract, recruit, and matriculate students.”
“This is a great opportunity to leverage what is already already a gold-standard economics education here at Georgia Tech,” he said. “This is true for international students, who gain an extra year of OPT, but also for our domestic students, who now will be classified as STEM graduates.”
The classification could potentially also open up new sponsored research opportunities for faculty, said Associate Professor Shatakshee Dhondge.
“Economics relies heavily on rigorous, quantitative analysis to solve real world problems,” she said. “So the STEM designation is a perfect fit for the School of Economics at Georgia Tech.”
Growing the STEM Connection
The School has already added new faculty positions in economic theory and econometrics, which is the application of statistics to the analysis of economic data. New assistant professors—Dylan Brewer, Maxwell Rosenthal and Karen Yan—work in the areas of market design, behavioral economics, energy and environmental economics, and big data analytics.
Additional classes in high demand across campus, such as those focused on the economics of strategy and information and behavioral economics, are also on the way, Taylor said.
“The STEM nature of economics is reflected in the strong demand for our classes at Georgia Tech.” Taylor said. “Our game theory course offered this fall reached capacity on the first day of registration.”
Taylor also expects the School to add more capacity in data analytics—already a growing area of emphasis.
For instance, the Health Economics and Analytics Lab (HEAL), led by School of Economics Professor Danny R. Hughes, uses big data analytics and artificial intelligence to analyze large-scale medical claims databases and better understand how evolving health care delivery and payment models affect patients and providers.
HEAL recently moved to Coda, Georgia Tech’s new headquarters for data analytics, and shares space with other health analytics units from around campus.
“It is an exciting time in the School,” Taylor said. “These changes reflect the strengths of our students, of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, and of Georgia Tech as a whole,” Taylor said. “I’m proud to be a part of what we’re doing here.”
The School of Economics, which is a unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, offers the Bachelor of Science degrees in economics (ECON), economics and international affairs (EIA) (jointly with the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs) and global economics and modern languages (GEML) (jointly with the School of Modern Languages).
The School also offers the Master of Science and the Ph.D. in Economics.