5 Questions: Rick Evans

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Professor Rick Evans has been part of the economics department at BYU for four years. He completed his undergrad degree at BYU and graduate degree at University of Texas at Austin.

What are some of the research highlights since you’ve been at BYU?

A highlight in the last nine months is me and a couple of other professors have received $118,000 to fund the BYU Macroeconomics and Computational Laboratory. Economics is a social science and we study how people make decisions in the face of restraints. It’s harder to do ethical experiments on people. So, we model people with mathematics that can get really complicated. We’ve received some great funding to train undergraduates in these specific computational methods and answer some really cool macroeconomic questions.

Professor Rick Evans teaches economics at BYU. (Photo by Elisa Tittle)

How often do you talk about economic current events with other professors here?

A lot, our lunch conversations are about the crossroads of politics and economics, like the U.S. debt. And research comes out of the questions. That’s one of the great things about being at a university.  There are a lot of economic jobs out there, but we get to work on research that we want to work on. I love it here; I really enjoy it here.

For students like me who don’t understand in depth how economics works, how can we become more educated?

I think it’s one of the most highly-attended classes at the university, our intro class Econ 110, Introduction to Economics. Some people just take it because they want to see. It’s not a cake walk. You learn the basic fundamentals of this way of modeling individual or firm decisions in the face of trade-offs.

We’ve got different seminars where the professors here will talk. I’ve given talks here about the European debt crisis. Other professors have talked in the Kennedy Center of here in the Econ department about U.S. healthcare spending and the U.S. debt. And they’re geared toward the general student population, although most students who come are in the major.

Is it essential for individuals to understand how our economy works?

A lot of people have different interests. There are students who graduate from here with music degrees and English degrees. So, clearly not. But, I think fundamentally they’ve made decisions based on restraints.  (Economics) is just a way of describing how we make decisions, and it’s a way that helps us answer interesting questions. You and I make decisions in the face of restraints all the time, whether or not we’ve ever taken an econ class.

So, I’m biased. I think everyone should take an econ class, but I’m also married to someone who has never taken an econ class and she’s awesome. I think everybody at some level understands decision making process and what our program does is provides some structure.

Why is BYU so special to you?

Its mission. It’s very different from other universities in that someone who believes in the leadership of the sponsoring institution of this university can have a lot of faith in the decisions of the people who run this university. I have freedom in my classes to bring in religion and how economics applies to decisions of everyday life. And we do have an amazing student body. People talk about our average GPA and average ACT, which are phenomenally high, but these are cream of the crop, LDS youth coming into BYU in the whole world. It’s not a random sample of the planet.

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