News: Georgia Tech's School of Economics Celebrates Its Success and 50 Years of Granting Degrees

School of Economics 50th Anniversary

Posted January 27, 2021

Fifty years ago this spring, Georgia Tech awarded its first three degrees in economics, marking a milestone in the School of Economics' journey from a small service unit to a dynamic center of scholarship and education. The School, highly ranked in several publications, is commemorating the event's 50th anniversary in 2021 with activities highlighting its remarkable growth — and its auspicious future.

"This is an exciting time for the School," said Chair Laura Taylor. "The study of economics has never been more vital than it is today, and our faculty and students are doing high-quality work that I believe would make our predecessors extraordinarily proud."

One proof of the School's success is in its growth. From 2000 to 2016, the School steadily enrolled about 50 economics majors annually. Over the past four years, however, the number of students majoring in Economics has grown rapidly.

"In terms of undergraduate enrollment in our core degree, we've been growing by about 20 percent per year. When you include our two interdisciplinary degrees and our graduate degrees, we enroll nearly 300 students," Taylor says. 

"We have many new classes that cover today's most interesting applications of economic theory, including Behavioral Economics, International and Development Economics, Environmental and Energy Economics, Health Economics and Game Theory," she says. "We also have increased our emphasis on quantitative training and offer students a robust foundation in applying modern statistical methods to a wide variety of economic data, and that's translating into more students."

Top-Notch Economics Education for All Majors 

The School of Economics' impact goes far beyond its own majors.

"We teach core economics principles to nearly 3,000 students each year. Forty percent of the seats in our upper-level courses are taken by students majoring in something other than economics," Taylor says.

Last year, applications from prospective students were up nearly 50%, Taylor notes. This means that "more and more high-school students are thinking, 'I want to study economics, and Georgia Tech looks like an excellent choice for me,' " she says.

"Economics is a way of looking at the world through markets and human interactions," she says. "It's is a great fit for Georgia Tech students because they love the analytical side of it. Economics is similar to engineering in that they both address the fundamental question of 'How do things work?'"

A unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, the School offers undergraduate degrees in Economics, Economics and International Affairs, and Global Economics and Modern Languages. Graduate programs leading to master's and Ph.D. degrees are also available.

Innovative Georgia Tech Economics Programs are Recognized Nationally 

In 2019, the degree programs received the STEM designation, signifying their emphasis on econometrics and highly quantitative economics. It was the first economics program in the University System of Georgia so recognized.

Another way of noting success is with the numbers. The School is ranked in the top 15 percent of all U.S. economics schools by economics-colleges.com, while its master's program comes in at No. 3 in the Grad School Hub survey and No. 7 at Best College Reviews.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Georgia Tech consistently ranks among the Top Ten public universities. The magazine also puts Georgia Tech in fourth place among the "most innovative" universities. 

Economics at Georgia Tech: A Distinguished History and a Bright Future

Economics has been taught at Georgia Tech since its earliest days when the Department of English offered a course teaching the rudiments of economics to engineers.

Not until 1934 was the program elevated to department status, taking top billing in a new Department of Economics and Social Sciences. But it was still regarded as a "service unit," meaning its role was limited to offering electives for the degree-granting entities.

Interdisciplinary education began several years ago at Georgia Tech with the acknowledgment that, to become a world-class university, traditional boundaries between disciplines must be flexible. Nowhere is that trend more evident than at the School of Economics. Here, faculty work closely with colleagues elsewhere in Ivan Allen College and in the Georgia Tech colleges on a range of complex issues.

The School's interdisciplinary thinking is embodied in its 21-member faculty, about half of whom are new hires and "hard-wired" for interdisciplinary work, Taylor points out.

"The success we've enjoyed over the past 50 years is the product of a lot of hard work by faculty, students, alumni, and my predecessors," Taylor says. "Our vision is to build upon that foundation, continue to innovate, and ensure that the next 50 years of economics education and research at Georgia Tech are even stronger than the first." 

To mark this milestone, the School of Economics will be hosting a Distinguished Speaker Series featuring prominent figures at Georgia Tech to discuss economics and beyond with faculty, staff, and students. 

By Gary Goettling 

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Contact For More Information

S. Dante Christmas 

Assistant to the Chair 

dante.christmas@gatech.edu