Kicking off a new, ongoing series, this Faculty Spotlight looks at Professor Jan Eberly.
Returning to Kellogg in 2013 after two years as assistant secretary for economic policy and chief economist of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Eberly brings her experience to the Kellogg community as both the James R. and Helen D. Russell Professor of Finance and the faculty director of the Kellogg Public-Private Initiative.
Here, she talks about her research, her teaching and how these issues can help organizations grow.
WHY DO YOU TEACH?
Every field has powerful ideas. Some are simple, others are nuanced. Conveying those powerful ideas to students — seeing them understand the construct, why it’s important and how to use it — makes teaching consequential. These ideas are powerful because they can be used in so many settings; they transcend examples, geographies and individuals. When students grasp them, they will have them and use them for a lifetime.
WHAT ARE YOU RESEARCHING AT THE MOMENT?
Economic policy is usually divided into monetary policy, run by the Federal Reserve, and fiscal policy, administered by Congress and the Executive Branch of government. But much of policy now involves credit markets, which is a hybrid of both monetary and fiscal. I’m working on a number of projects about how government policy interacts with the private sector in credit markets, such as mortgages and student loans.
WHAT ARE THE MOST EXCITING NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN YOUR FIELD OF STUDY?
The financial crisis focused attention on the interaction between macroeconomics and finance. The effects of the crisis were profound throughout the global economy. Researchers are now getting more and better data on the crisis and its aftermath that allow a much more serious and systematic examination of how to react and — even more importantly — to preempt the kind of cataclysm that occurred during the crisis and Great Recession.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT YOUR AREA?
Economic analysis can be perceived to be sterile and rigid. Using economic tools shouldn’t downplay the immense human and emotional stakes in social science. In fact, because the social aspects are so complex, using models and data to help provide clarity and rigor is even more important. But because that underlying reality is so complex, models and studies have to be used together with understanding and experience in practical applications. This balance is the art behind the rigor of science.
FINALLY, WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST OPPORTUNITIES IN YOUR AREA TO HELP ORGANIZATIONS GROW?
Economic growth fundamentally underlies expanding business opportunities and improving living standards. Driving growth is the primary imperative in macroeconomics today. Coming out of the financial crisis and “Great Recession,” sustained and shared expansion of economic opportunity has been elusive. Understanding how to drive improvements in productivity, human capital and the infrastructure that underlies growth is at the core of current research and developments in economic policy.