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Christina Hull Paxson '82

Honors Seminar
Paxson is currently the Hughes-Rogers Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School and chair of the Department of Economics. Economic development and health are the focus of her research and teaching.
I returned to Swarthmore in 1995 as an external examiner for the honors seminar in economic development. It's always a joy to visit the campus in the spring - it is incredibly beautiful - but it was especially fulfilling to come back in this role. The Honors Program had been the best part of my Swarthmore education. I loved the luxury of having long stretches of time between seminars for independent study. I learned an incredible amount from discussing seminar papers with my peers and professors. The Honors Program set me on the road to becoming an educator and a researcher. Preparing for and taking the honors exams was one of the most intense yet satisfying intellectual experiences I've ever had, and gave me confidence that my decision to pursue a graduate degree in economics was not a mistake.

Being an external examiner, 13 years after graduation, re-affirmed my belief in the value of the Honors Program. Not wanting to sell Swarthmore students short, I wrote a very challenging exam. In fact, I was a little worried that I'd made it too challenging - perhaps, during the years since leaving the College, I had developed an inflated view of the capabilities of Swarthmore students. I was not disappointed by the results, however. The students had mastered a large body of material and were able to apply economic tools to the analysis of complex problems of economic development. The best part of being an examiner was talking to the students during the orals. Each of them looked like I remember feeling toward the end of my own honors exams - somewhat frazzled after weeks of studying, and a little nervous. However, all of them were able to discuss the material with maturity and confidence. Over the course of their undergraduate education, these students had become scholars. It was a privilege to be part of their culminating academic experience at Swarthmore.