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Undergraduate Awards 2021

Congratulations to Our 2021 Award Winners

Dr. Hugo Mialon

Director of Economics Undergraduate Program

The W. Tate Whitman Prize in Economics

This award was named in honor of Tate Whitman, the first chair of the Economics Department from 1968 to 1978. The award is for the ability to present clear, cogent analysis of complex issues, extraordinary personal integrity, and wise leadership in the classroom and department.

2021 Recipient is Nikita Dsouza

Nikita DsouzaNikita’s thesis paper evaluates how sequential decision models fare as an alternative to simultaneous decision models in low-stakes settings with choice overload. The study tracks how decision utility varies as participants navigate low-stakes decisions across an “all-at-once” simultaneous choice presentation and a sequential “two-options-at-a-time” binary choice presentation. Her study finds statistically significant evidence that for low-stakes subjective decisions participants derive higher decision utility when presented with the simultaneous choice as opposed to the sequential one. This may be the result of the escalating feelings of commitment, indifference, and regret that arise when decision-makers navigate sequential decisions.

Video Message for Nikita DSouza from Dr. Mialon

From her advisor: 

In the words of her thesis adviser, Kelli Lanier, “Although only a sophomore when enrolled in my Experimental Economics class, Nikita immediately impressed me as one of the most insightful and thorough students I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. In Spring 2020, when our Economics and Psychology class moved online, she did not miss a beat and continued to consistently provide in-depth comments regarding the articles we read and the heuristics and biases we explored.  As my TA for both classes this year, Nikita has eagerly shared her knowledge of these subjects with students coming behind her.  Given my prior experience with Nikita, I was thrilled to mentor her through her senior thesis. She is, quite simply, a model student.”

Next steps for Nikita:  Nikita has interests in pursuing a career in marketing, brand strategy, and creative content development.

The Jack and Lewis Greenhut Prize

This award was originally the Lewis Greenhut Prize, and was established in memory of Lewis Greenhut by his brother, Jack. When Jack passed away in 1986, his name was added to the prize to honor his spirit of compassion and dedication to education. The prize is awarded to a graduating senior who has demonstrated the highest degree of excellence in classwork, research, and scholarly activities.

2021 Recipient is Danielle Handel

Danielle Handel

Danielle’s honors thesis studies the effects of natural disasters on infant health. Specifically, using spatial storm track data and demographic and health survey data from India, she examines how exposure to tropical cyclones affects children's health early in life. She finds that cyclones raise early mortality rates, especially in rural areas and for children of vulnerable mothers, supporting the case for increased focus on fetal and maternal care in natural disaster relief.

Video Message for Danielle Handel from Dr. Mialon

From her advisor:

In the words of her thesis advisor, Chris Karbownik, “I’m impressed with the questions Danielle is asking in her broad research agenda, which focuses on improving the economic well-being of people, and especially children, in both developed and developing countries. I have no doubt that she can make it to a top PhD program in the U.S. and then become an impactful applied economist. I am looking forward to checking in with her on the progress of her agenda during conferences once we can start meeting in person again.”

Next steps for Danielle:  Danielle has accepted a position as a pre-doctoral Fellow at Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

The George Benston and Richard Muth Prize for Excellence in Economics

This award was originally funded by George Benston and called the Richard Muth Award for Excellence in Economics. Prof. Muth is the father of urban economics and his contributions to the discipline are still studied and celebrated today. With the unexpected passing of George Benston in 2008, and with permission of his wife, Alice, the award was changed to the George Benston and Richard Muth Prize for Excellence in Economics. The award celebrates the spirit of both Profs. Benston and Muth, whose strong commitment to research and reputation for excellence helped facilitate Emory's change to becoming the world class research institution it is today. In their honor, we give this award to the student who demonstrates exemplary intellectual curiosity, passion, and skill in economic analysis.

2021 Recipient is Phoebe Lei

Phoebe LeiPhoebe’s thesis investigates the relationship between Environmental and Social Governance, or ESG, ratings and mutual fund performance for bond mutual funds over the COVID-19 crisis period. The paper sheds light on the value investors put on sustainability, and how it is incorporated into their pricing of securities. Through the analysis of factor-adjusted returns, she finds that bond mutual funds underperformed the market during the crisis period but outperformed the market both before and after the crisis. Bond mutual funds with higher ESG ratings generated higher crisis-period returns compared to their lower-rated counterparts. These results suggest that sustainable bond mutual funds are more resilient to large negative shocks, and investors were able to exploit this advantage and invested in these sustainable funds as a hedging strategy before the crisis struck.

Video Message for Phoebe Lei from Dr. Mialon

From her advisor:

In the words of her thesis adviser, John Kim, “Advising Phoebe was unusually rewarding for me. A series of awkward Zoom meetings transformed into Phoebe growing to be a true researcher. In a few years, I imagine that she'll be highly sought after by industry and academia.”

Next steps for Phoebe:  Phoebe will be pursuing a master’s program in finance.

Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Assistant

This award recognizes undergraduate students who have served as exceptional teaching assistants in our Economics classes.

2021 Recipient is Sofia Benzi

Sofia BenziSofia was a teaching assistant (TA) for Professor Paloma Moyano’s lab portion of Econ 320, our core econometrics class, this Spring semester. Back when Sofia had taken Econ 320 herself, it was taught only in R, so she had to teach herself Python to be able to help students. In Prof. Moyano’s words, “Sofia went above and beyond, teaching herself new coding techniques to help students with their difficulties, and leading them to success.” This demonstrates extraordinary dedication. 

Video Message for Sofia Benzi from Dr. Mialon

Next steps for Sofia:  Sofia has been accepted into graduate programs in Data Science at Vanberbilt and Biostatistics and Data Science at Cornell, as well as graduate programs at UGA, GA Tech, and UC Davis. Congratulations, Sofia!