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Q&A with Kim Kemppainen (BA ‘21)

July 3, 2021

What did you study and why did you choose your major and minor? 

I majored in economics and minored in public health. When I first came to college, I had many different interests and didn’t know exactly what I wanted to pursue. I chose economics in part because my high school economics teacher once remarked that “if you understand economics, then you understand how the world works.” As a soon-to-be freshman in college, that statement was really intriguing to me. 

I also knew that with an economics degree, I would be able to do a lot after graduation and wasn’t siloing myself into one career path. Now, as a senior economics student, I by no means understand economics fully, but I’m at least a few steps closer to understanding how the world works. 

Public health was a minor that I sort of fell into by accident, but I have always been interested in health and medicine, and it has been an amazing complement to my economics degree. I just finished my senior thesis under the direction of Dr. Fahima Aziz titled “Exploring the Relationship Between Public Health Expenditure and Maternal Health Outcomes in Low Income Countries” and am so thankful I had the tools and space to the past year exploring a topic that I am passionate about. 

What course would you recommend for other students in your major? 

My favorite courses in the economics department have been ECON 4331W Economic Development and ECON 4341 Economics of Poverty and Income Inequality. While many of the courses in the economics department are model- and math-based, these courses allowed me to explore the impact that different economic policies have on various populations around the world. 

In many economics courses, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the theories and assumptions that are needed to make the models work, but both of these courses humanized the work being done in economics and allowed us to study real-world applications of economic policies. 

What experiences have you had outside of the classroom that enhanced your studies and career goals? 

Throughout my four years here at the University, I have had the opportunity to do multiple internships at insurance and benefit management companies, notably Guardian LIfe Insurance, Travelers, and Willis Towers Watson. These internships have solidified my desire to work for a service—as opposed to a goods-based—industry. 

While the insurance world may seem boring to many, I have found the work incredibly fulfilling and meaningful! In addition to these external internships, I have also worked as an events intern for the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Additionally, I worked as a content creator as well as the engagement director for Backpack Communications. 

Whether you come into college knowing exactly what you want to do or not, I think it’s so important to get experience in a variety of different areas to figure out your skills and strengths and get a real idea of what different careers may look like. 

What advice will you give to freshmen looking to explore your major? 

My biggest advice to freshmen looking to major in economics would be to keep an open mind! Because the world of economics is so diverse, the electives offered in the economics department are too. There are some that you’ll love and some that probably won’t be your favorite, but they’ll all contribute to your learning in some way. 

There are so many directions you can go with your degree after graduation, so don’t feel like one internship or course or experience has to define your future. Lastly, pay attention in Intermediate Micro and Macro—those models come back in almost every elective! 

What are your plans after graduation?

I will be working as a compliance analyst for the Thrivent Advisors Network in Minneapolis after graduation.