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Student News June 01, 2023

From wrestling championships to top theses, everything we celebrated at Class Day 2023

On Monday, May 29, the Economics Department celebrated 135 members of the Class of 2023 by welcoming their friends and families to a jubilant Class Day celebration in McCosh Hall.

Before beginning his celebratory remarks, Department Chair Wolfgang Pesendorfer acknowledged the extraordinary circumstances this year’s class overcame in order to arrive at graduation.

“The Class of 2023 came to Princeton and, just as you found your bearings, the pandemic struck,” Pesendorfer said. “You were sent home at the beginning of the spring semester of your freshmen year, your lives profoundly disrupted.”

“The Class of 2023 had to pivot to online learning—many of you taking your foundational and core economics courses online. And then, when we finally returned to campus and in-person classes, you had to adapt once more to the changed circumstances. Just making it through all this and being here today is no small accomplishment!”

And yet, for a class that couldn’t let a pandemic slow it down, there was so much more to celebrate.

Take for example economics major Alexander Mrkalj, who received the university’s “Spirit of Princeton” award for his many positive contributions to campus life, or Patrick Glory, who won Princeton’s first NCAA individual wrestling championship since 1951. And who could forget the historic run of Princeton’s men’s basketball team to the 2023 NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Team members—and economics majors—Tosan Evbuomwan and Ryan Langborg made us proud!

Watch the full presentation

Here’s a quick look at all the big moments from Class Day 2023.

JC Martinez awarded the Halbert White ’72 Prize in Economics

The department delivered an extra special congratulations to Julio Cesar “JC” Martinez, who was awarded the Halbert White ‘72 Prize in Economics. The prize is awarded annually to the most outstanding senior economics major, as evidenced by excellence in department coursework and creativity in their Junior Paper and Senior Thesis.

JC Martinez receives the Halbert White '72 Prize in Economics. Photo credit: Dan Komoda

JC Martinez receives the Halbert White ’72 Prize in Economics. Photo credit: Dan Komoda

Pesendorfer said Martinez “forged an intellectually challenging path throughout his Princeton Economics education by consistently taking and mastering demanding courses and excelling in his Junior Independent Work and Senior Thesis.” Martinez was also the recipient of the top 2022 Junior Prize—an award that recognizes top students moving into their senior year based on GPA and an assessment of the student’s Junior Independent Work (JIW).

The best of the best: This year’s Senior Thesis Prize winners

Every year, the department recognizes those students with the strongest, most creative independent research projects. Fourteen students were awarded this year’s Senior Thesis Prizes.

The John Glover Wilson Memorial Award for the best thesis on international economics or politics was awarded to Nazdar Ayzit for their thesis titled “What Makes or Breaks Trust: A Logistic Regression Approach to the Determinants of Social Trust in Kurdistan.”

Nazdar Ayzit receives the John Glover Wilson Memorial Award. Photo credit: Dan Komoda

Nazdar Ayzit receives the John Glover Wilson Memorial Award. Photo credit: Dan Komoda

The Walter C. Sauer ’28 Prize, awarded annually to the student whose thesis or research project on any aspect of United States foreign trade is judged to be the most creative, was awarded to Tanvi Nibhanupudi for their thesis titled “Economic Consequences of Sanctions for Targeted and Targeting Countries: Evidence from Russia in 2014 and 2022.”

The Griswold Center for Economic Policy Studies Prizes, awarded to the best policy-relevant theses, were given to:

The Burton G. Malkiel *64 Senior Thesis Prizes in Finance was awarded to:

The Elizabeth Bogan Prize in Economics, awarded annually for the best thesis or theses in health, education or welfare, was awarded to:

The Daniel I. Rubinfeld ’67 Prize in Empirical Economics, awarded for the best theses in empirical economics, was given to:

Finally, the Wolf Balleisen Memorial Prize for the best thesis on an economics subject written by an economics major went to JC Martinez for “Consumption Expenditure Inequality and its Relation to the Factors that Drive the Macroeconomy.”

Pesendorfer also acknowledged two students whose Senior Thesis were granted prizes by other departments.

Faith Moore was the co-recipient of the Environmental Senior Thesis Prize and Katie Kruse was this year’s recipient of the Andlinger Center Senior Thesis Prize in Energy and the Environment.

Celebrating our outstanding graduate student “preceptors”

Every year, students and faculty nominate graduate students who went above and beyond in their role as “preceptors.” This year, six graduate students received these Graduate Student Teaching Awards.

Henry Zhao was recognized for precepting ECO 100: Introduction to Microeconomics. Photo credit: Dan Komoda

Henry Zhao is recognized for precepting ECO 100: Introduction to Microeconomics. Photo credit: Dan Komoda

Ole Agersnap, who has consistently received excellent ratings from students, was acknowledged for the excellent support he provided to students working on their Junior Independent Work (JIW). Henry Zhao was recognized for precepting ECO 100: Introduction to Microeconomics and going “above and beyond what is expected.” Elena Aguilar, a preceptor for ECO352: International Trade, was said to “radiate a kind and passional attitude in every interaction” and Mateus Ferraz Dias received an award for his role precepting ECO 326: Economics of the Internet: A Digital Revolution. Mateus was “cognizant of students’ academic and social profile and was able to fold that awareness into his judgement in an empathetic manner.”

Quan Le, a preceptor in ECO327: Firm Competition and Strategy: A Mathematical Approach, was nominated by one student for being “the best preceptor they’ve had at Princeton.” Finally, Derek Wenning was given a teaching award for “solving every problem that arose” as both a teacher and course organizer for ECO 101: Introduction to Macroeconomics.

An extra special thanks to faculty and staff

This year’s class was supported by the department’s first-in-class faculty and staff, and the Pesendorfer acknowledged several individuals for their commitment to undergraduate education.

Professor Kate Ho was named the recipient of the annual Harvey Rosen Teaching Prize for the support she provided students in her class “Firm competition and Strategy: A Mathematical Approach.”

The Harvey Rosen Advising Prize, awarded annually for outstanding advising of independent work, was given to two members of the department who helped students produce original, rigorous independent work.

The first recipient of the prize was Professor Kelly Noonan, who was recognized for “her willingness to push and challenge her students.”

“Professor Noonan is one of the most motivating, caring, and encouraging professors that I have had the pleasure of meeting at Princeton,” one student wrote of working with Professor Noonan. 

The second advising prize went to Oscar Torres-Reyna, who leads the Economic Statistical Services (ESS) team and helped all Economics majors with statistical analysis for both their Junior Independent Work and their Senior Thesis research projects.  Students commented, “Oscar is one of the most patient and considerate people I have ever met.”

Pesendorfer also gave special tribute to the department’s Executive Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Smita Brunnermeier, its Senior Thesis Coordinator, Professor Alessandro Lizzeri, its Junior Independent Work Coordinator, Professor Kelly Noonan, and the department’s Undergraduate Program Manager, Gina Holland.

Pesendorfer also thanked the ESS team who he said “went above and beyond the call of duty” by organizing hundreds of meetings data-clinic consultations to support seniors on their independent research. This year’s ESS Team included graduate students Eugenia Menaguale, Jessica Min, Stephanie Hu, Mateus Ferraz Dias, Filippo Palomba, and Jing Wu.

We wish all our incredible graduates the best of luck in the next phase of their lives. Congratulations to the Princeton Economics Class of 2023!

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