Economics Major Wins Research Honor

Economics Major Wins Research Honor

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

Brett Huneycutt '03, an economics major and Presidential Scholar from Scottsdale, Ariz., has won an American Academy of Political and Social Sciences Undergraduate Research Award for his paper on how small businesses in El Salvador are often supported by contributions from expatriates living in the United States.


Brett Huneycutt '03, winner of an American Academy of Political and Social Sciences Undergraduate Research Award, was praised by Prof. Peter Ireland (Economics) as "a truly exceptional student, who has even at this young age demonstrated his commitment to the social sciences." (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Huneycutt, who was also named a Junior Fellow by the academy, drew his prize-winning essay from work prepared for his senior honors thesis which examines the effects of funds sent by Salvadoran immigrants in the United States to friends and relatives back home. The recipients often use the new capital to establish small business enterprises in their homeland, he says.

"Although El Salvador is smaller than Massachusetts, it has a population of some 6 million people," Huneycutt said. "More than 1 million people have immigrated to the United States and many of them will send money home to their families and friends. This money is used as an alternative source of credit for small businesses [in El Salvador]. Credit markets usually don't work like that."

Huneycutt credited his thesis advisor, Prof. Donald Cox (Economics) and Assoc. Prof. Douglas Marcoullier, SJ (Economics), for assistance in preparing his research.

A stint last spring in Boston College's International Program at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, where he took classes in economics and international studies, gave Huneycutt the inspiration for his topic. He also worked with a microfinance institution in Mexico and remained in Mexico City for the summer as an economics intern in the US Embassy.

During the summer, he traveled to El Salvador where he worked for a week with Fr. Marcoullier researching the subject. "He was extremely helpful to me in making decisions about getting the thesis started and collecting statistics. He is very well connected in El Salvador."

Nominating Huneycutt for Junior Fellow status in the academy, Economics Department chairman Prof. Peter Ireland called him "a truly exceptional student, who has even at this young age demonstrated his commitment to the social sciences.

"This commitment is manifest not only in his outstanding work in the classroom and in the research library, but also in his willingness - and I mean this quite literally - to 'get his hands dirty' in the field, collecting new data and identifying new problems, both here and abroad."

Once named a Junior Fellow, Huneycutt was invited to submit a paper on his work for the group's Undergraduate Research Award.

"Brett's thesis promises to provide new and unique insights," Ireland said, "both to those who seek a deeper understanding of the forces that shape a country's economic development and to those who seek more direct and immediate policy prescriptions for promoting the growth process."

Huneycutt has applied for a Fulbright grant to collect and analyze additional economic data in El Salvador next year, Ireland said.

 

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