Expanding diversity in economics isn’t just about uplifting people — it uplifts the field itself.
“One perspective, experience, and culture will only answer a select amount of questions,” says Danika Grieser ’26. “And economists want to answer them all.”
Adds Melody Herrera-Garcia ’26: “Diversity allows new topics to be brought into the light.”
That was a key theme of the Expanding Diversity in Economics (EDE) Summer Institute at The University of Chicago, in which Grieser and Herrera-Garcia participated in June. The highly competitive program finds and supports talented undergraduates from diverse backgrounds.
They were “immersed in a world of economics in every dimension,” says Grieser, an economics and political science major and McCabe Scholar from Doylestown, Pa. Leading professors from UChicago and the Becker Friedman Institute (BFI) shared insights that ranged from macro and micro economics to statistics and calculus to coding. But it was a mutual exchange of ideas.
“They wanted us to ask questions and to discover flaws in their work,” says Grieser. “They were defending and improving their work in front of a group of students eager to learn.”
The students met with five Nobel Prize laureates, including former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and visited places such as the U.S. Capitol, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Chicago Federal Reserve. Michael Greenstone ’91, the director of the BFI, hosted and moderated lectures.
As important, though, was the opportunity for students to interact with one another — to see and hear faces and voices like their own.
“It felt amazing to talk to someone with whom you can truly connect and hash out what it means to develop an identity in this field,” says Herrera-Garcia, an economics and studio art major and Evans Scholar from Allentown, Pa.
Grieser belongs to the Swarthmore Indigenous Students Association (SISA), Herrera-Garcia to the Latinx student organization ENLACE.
While at the conference, Grieser reflected on the experience of her grandmother, who grew up and farmed on a Native American reservation and struggled to find acceptance outside of it.
“I remembered that I was here for her, because her perspective was never heard when she was younger,” she says.
Herrera-Garcia was born in the Bronx, to a Dominican family who valued education. Though everyone in her family attended college, she struggled to see a future for herself in economics, with just 15%of U.S. econ majors being Black, Hispanic, or Native American.
But the students’ experience at EDE this summer helped assuage such concerns.
“The program blew me away,” says Herrera-Garcia, who was profiled in AL DÍA News. “It opened my eyes to a future in this field, and gave me the inspiration to continue along this path.”