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Cornell economists unite within new universitywide department

David Easley and Kevin Hallock

Professor David Easley, left, is the first chair of Cornell's universitywide Department of Economics. Professor Kevin Hallock, right, is associate chair and will become the department's chair in July 2012.

The formation of Cornell’s first universitywide economics department will leverage the university’s considerable strengths in the field, according to the faculty members who will lead the merged department.

"Combining the arts college’s Department of Economics with the ILR School’s Department of Labor Economics and additional extraordinary scholars from around campus is going to help us improve training for our undergraduates and graduate students, expand the type of research that we can do, and broaden the type of outstanding scholars we can attract in coming years," says Kevin Hallock, professor of labor economics and director of ILR’s Institute for Compensation Studies. "Doing this – and with the enthusiasm being generated and the synergies that will be created – will make it easier to attract people to Cornell."

The merger was announced in late July by Provost Kent Fuchs. It will comprise all economics faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and all labor economists from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. A small number of senior distinguished professors from the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Policy Analysis and Management also will hold joint appointments in the new department.

Donald C. Opatrny

Donald C. Opatrny '74 See larger image

The merged department’s first chair is David Easley, the Scarborough Professor of Social Science and the Donald C. Opatrny ’74 Chair of the Department of Economics. Hallock, associate chair, will become department chair in July 2012. When Hallock becomes chair, Easley will serve as vice chair.

The merger follows six years of work by several committees and task forces that included prominent alumni and economics faculty from peer institutions. The transition team appointed by Fuchs included Easley; Hallock; Francine Blau, the Frances Perkins Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Labor Economics; and Ted O’Donoghue, professor of economics.

"I think that the merger is a tremendous opportunity for Cornell to bring together the disparate disciplines of economics that exist broadly at the university," says Opatrny, a university trustee who endowed the chair held by Easley in 2007. "Bringing them together makes the whole much greater than the sum of its parts."

The new department will offer a wider range of economic perspectives, bringing the empirical approach and policy focus of the ILR School together with the theoretical approach of the College of Arts and Sciences, says Harry Katz, the Kenneth F. Kahn Dean of the ILR School.

"We’ll be able to continue providing outstanding training while improving research experiences and classroom opportunities for our students," Easley says.

:The department will report jointly to the deans of the ILR School and the College of Arts and Sciences. For now, faculty will remain in their current offices.

"We have a lot to offer each other, and a lot to learn from each other," Hallock said. "We come from a position of strength, and this new structure will make us better immediately and going forward."

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