In 2015, the Master of Science in Applied Economics program at Boston College’s Woods College of Advancing Studies launched with a singular vision. Program director Dr. Aleksandar (Sasha) Tomic describes that vision as “an engaged, top-quality, student-focused program grounded in the real world.”

The people-centered emphasis flows from the perspective that economics is ultimately about people and the societies they build. As such, the program’s success correlates with each student’s success. In particular, the program’s unwavering commitment to supporting its students as they launch or advance their applied economics careers is peerless.

Training the Next Generation of Problem-Solvers

The program’s evolution is at once organic and systematic.

“Sasha has ideas,” says Dr. Rob Bradley, adjunct professor in the MSAE program teaching predictive analysis and forecasting, speaking of director Tomic. One of Dr. Tomic’s best ideas is to listen and encourage others to express their own ideas. Always from a “student-centered perspective,” says Dr. Tomic, from there, “everything else follows.”

What follows is a holistic process that prepares students for applied economics careers, changemakers ready to solve problems in the real world. This unfolding process is what sets the MSAE program apart.

Intentional Career Development

A compelling advocate for rooting intentional career development into college programs, Dr. Bradley, speaks from his own experience as a student. He recalls that the “career support” he received as an undergrad and grad student amounted to “go to class, let us know if you need anything.”

The MSAE program at Boston College is the antithesis of this.

For example, when Bradley first joined the faculty and talked with his students about their interests, he soon realized how different things could be from his student experience. “They’d tell me, ‘well, I was talking with Sasha, and here are some things he suggests.’ I don’t know any other program where the program director actually knows the students that well. Some students, sure, but he seems to know everybody.”

For his part, Tomic expresses gratitude for the opportunity of knowing each student. “I am continually impressed with the caliber of students the program attracts,” he says. Everybody wins.

This is the mindset of intentional career development.

Virtual Career Fair and Student Showcase

This spring, MSAE students participated in a first-of-its-kind Graduate Showcase and Career Event in partnership with Open Data Science Conference.

The event was open to all enrolled students and alumni of the MSAE program.

Swapping roles of the standard career fair, the showcase allowed students to set up a virtual booth showcasing their work. Instead of students finding recruiters to speak with, recruiters found the students they wanted to talk to, whose research looked interesting and was well-presented. The showcase allowed students to communicate their ideas behind that research to prospective employers. More than a job interview, the showcase allowed a safe space for dialog.

Economics can’t exist only in a vacuum. Neither can economists.

The Human Element: The Dialog of Economics

Hiring managers assume you have the requisite programming and economic theory skills, explains Bradley. “It’s table stakes,” he says. But, for recruiters, what sets a candidate head and shoulders above the rest is ideas and the ability to communicate those ideas (and where they might lead) clearly, calmly, and with confidence. All of it backed up with solid, fresh research.

If technical skills are assumed, it’s the soft skills that tip the scales. The challenge with “soft skills” is knowing how to apply them in context, from consistently engaging a LinkedIn network to translating technical theory, research, and analysis into a human conversation.

Any theory is useful only in its application. No body of research translates to real-world results without a dialog. The MSAE program steeps students not only in economics but the dialog of economics. That’s where change happens.

Mentors and Colleagues

Once a student, always a colleague. “I tell my students they can call me anytime. Even if it’s 50 years from now,” says Bradley. Students and graduates are colleagues on an extraordinary journey in exceptional times.

Unorthodox by Design

The inaugural showcase event is the fruition of an idea Dr. Tomic and his team have worked on since the program’s inception. However, the showcase itself is yet another beginning. A spirit of innovation, thinking outside the box, drives the program’s evolution.

As Dr. Bradley says, “Sasha has ideas.” His biggest idea is what the MSAE program can do next for his students as they pursue their applied economics careers and change the world.