College of Social Sciences

Greg Burge (05-06)

University of Oklahoma


Simply put, my experience within the economics program at Florida State University has been extraordinary. Perhaps the strongest statement of support I can give the program is that in looking back on my decision to enter the program, I can honestly say I would do it all over again.

This narrative is meant to share some of my experiences with you and highlight some of the reasons I think FSU's economics program is top-notch. I entered the Ph.D. program in 2000 with 9 other students. From the very beginning, our cohort had a high degree of cooperation. I had envisioned a cut-throat environment where students would fight over the few valuable A's that professors offered- but nothing could have been further from the truth. We were encouraged to work together, complement each other's strengths, and our grades were independently earned based on our mastery of the material. Many of my best friends are fellow graduate students.

The quality of instruction in the economics program is first rate. From the core macro/micro theory courses, to the econometrics sequence, to the specialized field courses- I was uniformly impressed with the expertise of the faculty and their effectiveness as instructors. Students in the program receive a great deal of personal attention as they go through their courses- and even more importantly, after they finish their courses and begin working on the dissertation and other advanced research projects. My personal experience has been profoundly enhanced by the working relationships I have had with several professors- the most meaningful of which was with my advisor, Professor Keith Ihlanfeldt. As I leave the program, it is clear that the mentors who helped me grow over the years have turned into friends.

An abundance of regularly scheduled workshops facilitates productive working relationships between professors and graduate students. The DeVoe L. Moore (state and local regulation), quantitative methods, experimental economics, and macro/micro seminars are four series that I regularly participated in. These seminars expose junior graduate students to the research interests of the faculty and provide a great environment for senior students to present their own work. The seminars are highly attended by the faculty and my own research has benefited greatly from suggestions I received at several presentations. (The faculty also generally have open door policies and are readily available to work with students in less formal settings as well.) Before completing the program, I had published multiple co-authored papers with Keith Ihlanfeldt and had other pieces (including sole authored work) under review. These efforts were facilitated by the supportive research environment and, more importantly, by the considerable expertise and experience of the department's faculty.

One of the realities of graduate school is that prospective students are (understandably) concerned about what type of funding opportunities they will have as they move through the program. The overwhelming majority of cases I have seen (including my own) indicate that graduate student funding is secure and predictable within the program. My experience was somewhat out of the ordinary in that I was funded by research fellowships three out of my five years in the program. While one of these was from a national competition- the other two years of fellowship support were FSU funded opportunities, including the DeVoe L. Moore Dissertation Fellowship which is awarded to multiple students each year. The department also annually awards two dissertation fellowships to help support top students in their research efforts. In addition to research fellowship opportunities, graduate students are often able to obtain RA funding to work on joint research projects with faculty. In my personal case, RA funding frequently came from the Devoe-Moore Center, a research intensive interdisciplinary unit that that is dedicated to better understanding the role of government in a market economy. Graduate students are also given opportunities to teach their own courses while in the program. The teaching experience usually begins with either Principles of Micro or Macro, but in my case went on to involve teaching two upper division undergraduate courses- Intermediate Microeconomic Theory and Game Theory. My experience was not unique, advanced graduate students are often given opportunities to teach courses in their areas of specialization. As you can see, I think the department does a great job training students to become effective researchers and teachers.

Upon nearing completion of the Ph.D. program and entering the academic job market, the opportunities I had were considerable. Because FSU was not a top 20 program, I must admit that I was somewhat skeptical of how I would be viewed on the market. In the end I had 27 interviews with academic departments (and 3 for private sector positions), 8 follow-up campus visits for additional interviewing, and multiple job offers from research intensive Ph.D. granting departments- having accepted an assistant professor position at the University of Oklahoma. My training and experiences at FSU enabled all of this. Although my personal preference was to seek an academic position, many students are interested in using their degrees to pursue rewarding (and lucrative) non-academic jobs. Simply put, the record clearly shows that placements have been strong in both academic and non-academic positions.

To summarize, the economics program here at FSU was an incredible launching pad for my career. I was provided with incredible opportunities at many stages along the way and was willing to work hard to make the most of those opportunities. If you are the kind of student that is willing and able to do the same thing over the next few years- then the economics program at FSU may be the right place for you.