Duke Economics Celebrates the Class of 2018

Professor Craig Burnside congratulates the class of 2018.

Duke University awarded more than 5,500 undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees during its annual commencement ceremony Sunday, May 13. About 13,000 family, friends, and guests traveled to Durham to celebrate the class of 2018.

Immediately following the university’s event, the Department of Economics presented diplomas to graduates at its annual Graduation Recognition Ceremony in Cameron Indoor Stadium. This year members of the faculty presented diplomas to 14 Ph.D. graduates, 64 M.A. Economics graduates, eight M.A. Analytical Political Economy graduates, nine M.S. Economics and Computation graduates, and 219 graduates with an economics major.

Senior Maya Durvasula, a Truman Scholar and winner of this year’s Best Honors Thesis Award, was nominated by faculty to be the student commencement speaker. Durvasula graduated with an economics major as well as a minor in mathematics and a certificate in politics, philosophy, and economics.

Drawing upon her past experience working in state politics, Durvasula spoke about the importance of understanding why and how well program sand systems work, and how an economics background provides the framework through which graduates can better understand the world.

“(Economists) ask questions like activists — about prosperity, growth, and well-being — then find answers like scientists,” she said, adding that this rational approach to problem-solving will serve graduates well both in life and in whatever career paths they choose. “Courses in math, statistics, and economics gave us the skills to both deconstruct and reconstruct arguments, policies, and systems … it taught us to give our friends and enemies some latitude, to realize that they may be optimizing under constraints and within paradigms that we don’t understand. And we learned to think critically about choices: how and why they’re made, and how they change in response to shocks in our environments.”

Faculty speaker Frank Sloan called upon the new graduates to give back — both to Duke and the greater good: “Individually and collectively, you represent a positive force. Do seize the opportunity to improve the welfare of other individuals, and to make Duke, higher education, and the world a better place.”

Master’s Awards

Duke Department of Economics Master's Program Award for Academic Excellence
Hao Pang

Duke Department of Economics Master's Program Award for Leadership
Carla Rodriguez

Undergraduate Awards

Duke Financial Economics Center Leadership Award
Chinmay Pandit

The following Allen Starling Johnson, Jr. Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Research allow for recognition of those outstanding students whose work stands out among the 37 honors students this year.

Best Honors Thesis
Maya Durvasula
“24K Magic:  Evidence on Maternal Asset Ownership and Children’s Long-Term Outcomes in Indonesia”

Best Honors Thesis Finalist
Dane Burkholder and Chin Jie Lim 

Outstanding Symposium Presentation
William Walker 

2nd Place Outstanding Symposium Presentation
Elizabeth Lim, Frances Mitchell and Akshaya Trivedi

Outstanding Honors Poster, Faculty Vote
Moses Wayne

2nd Place Outstanding Honors Poster, Faculty Vote
Michael Karamardian

Outstanding Honors Poster, Student Vote
Rahul Sharma 

2nd Place Outstanding Honors Poster, Student Vote
Elizabeth Lim, Frances Mitchell and Akshaya Trivedi

Best Honors Thesis (2017 Awardee) 
Jackie Xiao
“Structural Estimation of FCC Bidder Valuation”