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From Minneapolis to Milan, Undergrad Kazimier Smith Engages in Research

December 13, 2018

Portrait of Kazimier Smtih

Portrait of Kazimier Smtih
Photo by Phuong Tran, a CLAgency student

An opportunity may be only as good as you make it, but undergraduate Kazimier Smith has truly done his best.

From winning the competitive Haugen Dexheimer Scholarship to his learning abroad experience in Milan, Italy, Kazimier Smith, a senior set to graduate with a double major in economics and mathematics, has certainly made the most of his liberal arts experience. Smith’s interest in economics was ignited by a high school class on the subject. “I like economics because it’s math but also there’s some social relevance to it, some application to real life,” says Smith.

A Foot in the Door

The one thing Smith believes has played a critical role in his journey so far is his frequent interaction with his professors. “I believe that just meeting my professors in person and getting them to remember my face really helps.” It’s no surprise then that his enterprising attitude got him his first position as a research assistant. “I told one of my professors that I was looking for research work,” he says, “and she connected me with Anusha Nath, a visiting assistant professor in the department of economics who was looking for a research assistant!”

The Beginning of Research  

In fact, Smith’s resume highlights a number of research experiences, the first being his time as Nath’s research assistant in the spring of his freshman year. In that role, he collected and converted data she was using for a larger project. 

This experience, he says, showed him how research is conducted, “Just getting exposure to the research process was very helpful. I started understanding how data is very important to research and that it is a much bigger part of the process than I initially thought.” 

Since then, Smith has been actively involved in research. Last summer he had a research internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, where he worked with data from documents made in the late 19th century and attended monetary policy briefings. Research seminars were the “highlight” of his experience, he says. “It’s good to have a little bit of knowledge in every field, I think.” 

When in Milan

During his junior year, Smith participated in the economics department’s exchange program with Milan’s Bocconi University, where he took on his first independent research project. “It was a lot more work than I expected, but it was still fun and I got to do a lot of different things like working with data, writing code, and, of course, the final paper,” he says. 

In the exchange program, Smith could conduct independent research for credit and take courses that the U doesn’t offer. He also took an advanced microeconomics course, which he believes helped him understand that his interest lay in that particular sphere of economics. “We talked about moral hazard, asymmetric information, and other topics which are all really interesting to me,” says Smith. Speaking about his love for microeconomics he states, “it’s very applicable to real life and is a useful way to think of a lot of situations which are otherwise very ambiguous.” 

Future Plans

Smith is currently filling out graduate school applications and says that his experience of conducting independent research confirmed his desire to pursue a PhD in economics. He believes that his liberal arts education gives him the ability to brainstorm better research questions. “I think a lot of times research ideas come from places you wouldn’t think they come from. So, I think in that sense, it is helpful to know a little bit about other fields,” he says.

His dedication to continuously improve his existing skills and the constant search for opportunities to develop new ones has led him to be awarded the Haugen Dexheimer scholarship. “I’m really happy with the experience I’ve had here. I have taken a lot of interesting classes and I am very grateful to the economics department here. They have prepared me to do a lot of different things, and now I get to choose what I want to do!”

This story was written by an undergraduate student content creator in CLAgency. Meet the team.