Economics at BC Has a Distinctly Italian Accent

Economics at BC Has a Distinctly Italian Accent

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

These days in the Boston College Economics Department, it pays to be able to say "Benvenuti," or to have an appreciation for the likes of Cicero, Vivaldi, Fellini and the AC Milan soccer team.

(L-R) Luisa Lambertini, Raffaella Giacomini and Marina Pavan are three of the six Economics Department faculty born and raised in Italy. (Photo by Justin Knight)
The department's three newest faculty members, Assoc. Prof. Luisa Lambertini and assistant professors Raffaella Giacomini and Marina Pavan, all are natives of Italy. So are assistant professors Fabio Ghironi and Matteo Iacoviello, who joined the Economics faculty during the past few years, and Prof. Fabio Schiantarelli, who has taught at Boston College since 1992.

With six of 26 tenure-track faculty members from Italy, Boston College arguably has the highest percentage of highly regarded Italian economics scholars of any US economics department, according to Prof. Marvin Kraus, the BC Economics chairman.

In addition, the department has inaugurated a faculty and graduate student exchange program with a consortium of Italian universities. Two Italian professors will visit BC in the spring and offer short courses to doctoral students.

This link between Chestnut Hill and the Mediterranean is more than a coincidence, say Kraus and the Italian economists: One might say it is an example of a desirable commodity finding a desirable market, or vice-versa.

Schiantarelli says there is excellent undergraduate training in economics in Italy and many Italian students are accepted into the world's top economic graduate programs. The result is a significant pool of top-tier Italian economists available to American schools, he said.

"American universities are more open and merit-based in their hiring than Italian universities," Schiantarelli said. "There are greater opportunities for Italian researchers here."

The three newcomers to BC did study and teach at other American universities, but Boston, Schiantarelli says, "is the premier place in the world for an academic economist. There is a concentration of talent here that you won't find anyplace else."

Pavan describes Boston as a city "with European style," making it especially welcoming to scholars from across the Atlantic. "A very livable city for Italians," agreed Giacomini.

The far-ranging reputation of BC's Economic Department, say Schiantarelli and his fellow countrymen, proved enticing as well.

"The Boston College Economics Department has been rising in quality very fast," said Lambertini. "A lot of effort has gone in to building up the department. It's really on the map."

Giacomini said, "Boston College is a great environment for research. I look forward to collaborating with my senior colleagues and taking advantage of all of the universities around us in my work. The mentoring that we will receive here is really appreciated."

The Economics Department also claims faculty members from Hungary, Sweden, Japan, Israel and England, as well as a solid cadre of American scholars, notes Kraus.

"With our three new hires, we are a more diverse department than ever," he said.

The new faculty members "far exceeded our standards for making appointments," said Schiantarelli, who assisted in the recruiting. "We made offers to the three best candidates and we got them."

Lambertini, for her part, is enthusiastic about her decision to accept BC's offer. "I am delighted to have joined this faculty. I cannot stress just how important a good atmosphere of collegiality is to a department," she said. "The best atmosphere creates the best work."

One aspect of Boston the new faculty members have yet to sample, however, is the cuisine in the city's famed North End.

"We are eager to hear their reviews," Schiantarelli laughed.


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