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Economics and Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Economics and Education

In the Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis



Mehmet Alper Dincer, Research Coordinator, Education Reform Initiative (ERI)

Mehmet Alper Dincer
Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, Ph.D. 2013

Research Coordinator
Education Reform Initiative (ERI), Sabancı University, Istanbul, Turkey

While I was working as a research assistant in Istanbul, Turkey between 2008 and 2009 my primary field of work was economics of education. The field was a fertile ground for research; data sources were abundant and research on this area were very limited. However, prospects to develop as a researcher were narrow and I was in need of carrying my research skills to another, more rigorous, level which would help me to produce robust academic work addressing key policy issues. Therefore, discovering the Economics and Education program at Teachers College (TC) was a live-saver and a major turnaround in my professional career.

After four years at TC, currently I am the research coordinator of Education Reform Initiative (ERI), an education policy think-tank at Sabancı University, Istanbul. At ERI, we focus on education policy issues mainly in Turkey; however our activities also extent to other countries in the region of the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. I collaborate with a team of policy analysts, research assistants and consultants in order to identify policy and knowledge gaps in education policy. Aiming to address these gaps, we form the research agenda of ERI and produce and commission research activities in collaboration with governments and international organizations. The analytical skills as well as the network I acquired in the Economics and Education program greatly contributes to the production of our research and policy reports, which enables us to build our advocacy efforts on a data-based evidence-driven solid base.

Michelle Hodara, Senior Researcher, Education Northwest

Michelle Hodara
Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, Ph.D. 2012

Senior Researcher
Education Northwest, Portland, Oregon            

As an undergraduate, I studied economics and, after college, I was a Special Education teacher at a public school. My early academic interests and professional experiences motivated me to pursue a field where I could use economics to better understand educational institutions, interventions, and programs.  The Economics and Education program was a perfect fit for me. The courses, taught by excellent faculty, provided a solid foundation in economic theory and methods and developed content expertise in important areas of education policy. As a doctoral student, I had the opportunity to apply what I learned in my courses to conduct policy-relevant research at the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College.

I am currently a Senior Researcher at Education Northwest in Portland, Oregon, where I lead research on the high school-to-college transition and work with schools leaders, policy-makers, and other education stakeholders on using data and evidence to make decisions regarding how to improve students’ college access and success.  Using the economic methods I learned in my program and at CCRC, I analyze large, statewide longitudinal datasets and design program evaluations. I often have to assess if the available data and research context allow for a causal research design, or if using other analytical methods can provide actionable information to education stakeholders.

I am still connected to Teachers College in a number of ways. During the dissertation process, I forged a strong connection with other doctoral students in EPSA department programs, and we continue to support each other today by trading professional and career advice.  I also continue to conduct research with my CCRC colleagues.

Anindita (Dita) Nugroho, Research Fellow, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

Anindita (Dita) Nugroho
Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2013

Research Fellow
Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

I took time off from my role as a Research Fellow with the Australian Council for Educational Research to enroll in the Master’s program at Teachers College. In that role I was a consultant to a number of national education ministries and international agencies, running large-scale surveys of teachers and students as well as providing policy and programming advice. After two years, I wanted to take time to develop new skills in rigorous applied research to inform education policy making, with a particular interest in experimental and quasi-experimental techniques. The Economics and Education program at TC was unlike any available in the Asia Pacific region.

The highlights of the year I spent in the program were many. They included engaging instruction on applied statistics by Professors Elizabeth Tipton, Judith Scott-Clayton and Robert Shapiro, as well as the week spent in Washington, D.C. as part of Professor Sharon Kagan’s Federal Policy Institute. I also had the invaluable opportunity to be a teaching assistant for Professor Elizabeth Tipton’s class and in my final semester, as part of the Education Pioneers program, I had a ten-week placement at the New York State Education Department. Being at Columbia and New York City also allowed me to attend talks and seminars by some of the writers and academics I have admired for many years. Most of all, however, I valued the support and friendship of my endlessly interesting cohort.

Since completing my degree, I have returned to Australia and traveled to Ethiopia and Indonesia to undertake research projects with topics as varied as social norms education equity, to alumni outcomes of scholarship holders. Currently I am working on a survey of 900 Indonesian schools to examine the reasons behind and implications of teacher absence. I am also working on a smaller consultancy on social inclusion in the higher education sector in Indonesia. I regularly access the skills, knowledge and network I gained at TC and believe I will continue to do so.

Mina Dadgar, Director of Research, Career Ladders Program

Mina Dadgar
Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2012

Director of Research
Career Ladders Project

I came to the Economics and Education program after earning a BA in Economics and a Master’s in Public Policy and working as a Research Analyst at a large evaluation organization. I soon realized that to pursue some of my research interests in education, I needed to have a deeper understanding of applied quantitative methods.

I was attracted to the Economics and Education program because of its applied focus and the fact that I could learn both about econometrics and research in education. In addition, I had become interested in community college research.  After having spent my first two years of post-secondary education at a Community College, I was interested in focusing on community college research and the fact that the Community College Research Center (CCRC) was located at TC was a big plus.

Once I had joined TC, I was able to take rigorous courses in quantitative methods in Columbia’s economics, statistics and public policy departments, as well as some very good courses in the Economics and Education program. The highlight of my experience at TC was working at CCRC, where I was able to apply what I had learned in my courses to real projects, while I had the opportunity to collaborate and learn from some of the experts in the field who worked at the center.

Before graduating from my program, I was contacted by a researcher from West Ed and upon graduation, I began working as a Policy Research Associate there. In this role, I was able to work on a variety of research and technical assistance projects, working with community colleges, high school districts, and workforce development agencies. Recently, I accepted an offer to work at the Career Ladders Project as the Director of Research. In this role, I will be able to translate research to community college leaders, and help generate a long term research agenda for the organization. I am still in close contact with my advisors and former CCRC colleagues. In addition, I continue to be in touch with the friends that I met at Teachers College.

David Letichevsky, Education Specialist, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia)

David Letichevsky
Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2011

Education Specialist
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia), Papua New Guinea

When I first learned about the economics and education program at Teacher’s College I thought that it sounded like a very attractive proposition. After nearly 10 years working in international development in Africa and Asia, mostly in education related programs, I accumulated a number of unanswered questions. I felt the needed for a structure and guidance to assist me in framing and answering these various questions.

I feel the program gave me a solid and relevant structure to help me build strong research skills. These skills enabled me not only to address my initial set of unanswered questions but also to investigate other issues beyond them. I am grateful to my lecturers and colleagues for this. If there is a single element to be highlighted from my TC experience I would say it is the openness to question and investigate.

I am currently the education specialist for the Australian government aid program in Papua New Guinea. It is Australia’s largest education program and it covers all education areas, from early childhood to higher education. We are currently investigating strategies to improve education quality through investments in teachers and the use of modern communication technologies.

My professional goal is to contribute to more effective education policies in developing countries. My dream is to grant children from all countries, regardless of their background, the freedom to pursuit knowledge.

Kara Chesal, Project Manager, Office of Innovation (iZone), NYC Dept of Education

Kara Chesal
Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2011

Project Manager
Office of Innovation (iZone), New York City Department of Education

My interest in economics and education developed when I was an undergraduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute working towards a dual degree in Economics and Science, Technology, and Society Studies. As a freshman, my work study was in a nearby kindergarten and it inspired me to look more deeply at the challenges facing our education system. In order to dive deeper into issues of economics and education I decided to pursue a MA in Economics and Education immediately after graduating. As a student at Teachers College I worked at the Columbia Center for New Media, Teaching, and Learning and was a research intern for the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement where I helped the Commission make recommendations to Governor Rell on closing the achievement gap in Connecticut.

After I completed my degree at Teachers College I was hired by the NYC Department of Education and for the past three years I’ve worked as a research analyst and project manager for the Office of Innovation (iZone). In my role as a researcher I supported evaluation efforts and developed research projects primarily focused on the iLearnNYC blended and online learning program. I supported survey and instrument development, implementation, and data management for over 150 schools. My research led to a co-authored book chapter in “Blended Learning Research Perspectives: Volume 2; Routledge, (2014).” Through my experience at the iZone, I learned how to develop and implement research studies and interpret educational outcomes. I’ve had to opportunity to work with researchers from SRI, NYU Research Alliance, Harvard Ed Lab, and John Hopkins University on numerous grant-funded research projects.

I’ve also worked on the iZone central team where I led grant management, strategy, and partnership development. My current role at the iZone is on the Innovate NYC Schools team where I design and execute market-facing engagements with early-stage companies and education stakeholders. These engagements allow me to explore the role of incentives and behavioral economics in developing symbiotic relationships with the private sector.

Outside of work I enjoy volunteering with high school students and I’m passionate about improving access to STEM education, especially for women and minorities.

RJ Walz, Associate Director, Office of Research, Accountability, and Data, NYC Dept of Education

RJ Walz
Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2013

Associate Director
Office of Research, Accountability, and Data, New York City Department of Education

After graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in economics, I began working in accounting thinking I would eventually want to become a CPA. I came to realize that my true passion was education policy and research, and I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree. When I learned about the Economics and Education program at Teachers College, I thought it would be the perfect program for building on my economics background and developing a solid foundation in education policy and research methods. During my time at Teachers College, I was able to accomplish all of these things and more.

Looking back, I realize now that I never truly understood statistics or regression until taking Applied Regression Analysis with Professor Elizabeth Tipton. The technical foundation I was able to develop in this course has been invaluable in my continued learning and professional work. This course also prepared me to take a great course on Causal Inference Methods with Professor Judith Scott-Clayton. This course was also one of the highlights of my time at Teachers College. The understanding I developed of what it takes to make a causal claim with data is something I rely on consistently in my work. I also grew in ways I hadn’t even anticipated. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Zankel Fellowship which allowed me to tutor 5th graders in math every day at a nearby elementary school in Harlem. The opportunity to work with students every day really grounded my learning about education policy and research because I was able to associate real faces with the issues we were discussing in my classes.

Prior to graduating, I began working full-time as a Policy Analyst focused on school performance policy at the NYC Department of Education. I completed the program at Teachers College part-time and have now been at the NYC DOE for over 1.5 years. In my role, I mainly help others understand data about how schools are performing so that informed decisions can be made. This involves providing data to schools that they can use to better understand the outcomes for their students, making a wide variety of data available and accessible to parents and the public, and helping teams across the NYC DOE better understand how schools are performing so resources can be directed to where they are most needed.

Our Alumni have also held the following positions:
Title Employer Year Degree
Staff Associate CIESIN Earth Institute, Columbia University 2009 MA
Consultant The World Bank 2011 MA
HR Planning Officer Panasonic 2009 MA
Content Developer Diversity Abroad 2011 MA
Assistant Director Carred Development Center, Trinity College 2009 MA
Research Associate World Education Services (WES) 2012 MA
Senior Consultant Price Waterhouse Coopers 2011 MA
Asia Program Specialist Teachers College, Columbia University 2011 MA
Senior Global Contracts Representative Bloomberg Finance LP 2011 MA
Consultant Ilia State University 2011 MA
MBA Candidate Wharton School 2010 MA
Consultant Namibian Ministry of Trade and Industry 2010 MA
Relationship Manager United Nations Global Compact 2009 MA
Education Officer Ministry of Education of Singapore 2011 MA
Education Specialist DotLib/Encyclopaedia  Britannica 2011 MA
Senior Research Assistant Community College Research Center 2011 MA
Senior Associate Discover Financial Services 2012 MA
Data Analyst Educational Testing Service (ETS) 2013 MA
Executive Director India School Leadership Insitute (ISLI) 2012 MA
Associate China Securities Co Ltd 2011 MA
Associate Director NYC Department of Education 2013 MA
Director of Data Management Democracy Prep 2012 MA
Program Manager NYC Department of Education 2011 MA
Professor National University of Mongolia 2010 PHD
Faculty of School Education Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile 2010 PHD
Adjunct Assistant Professor Columbia University 2011 PHD
Policy Research Associate WestEd 2012 PHD
Policy Analyst Education Reform Initiative, Sabanci University 2013 PHD
Assistant Professor Universidad Icesi 2013 PHD
Education Economist Economic Policy Institute 2013 PHD
Senior Researcher Education Northwest 2012 PHD
Education Specialist Columbia University Earth Institute 2011 PHD
Research Associate Center Benefit-Cost Studies in Education 2013 PHD
Associate Director for Research Columbia University 2009 PHD
Research Assistant Columbia University 2011 PHD
Assistant Professor Chinese University of Hong Kong 2010 PHD
Research Economist Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics 2009 PHD
Research Analyst/Associate Eduventures 2011 PHD
Researcher Mathematica Policy Research 2011 PHD
Economics Professor St. Louis University 2010 PHD
Research Director The National School Climate Center 2011 PHD
Policy and Plan Analyst Ministry of Education 2009 PHD
Assistant Professor Wakayama University 2012 PHD
Postdoctoral Research Associate Community College Research Center 2013 PHD
Postdoctoral Research Associate Community College Research Center 2013 PHD
Postdoctoral Research Associate Community College Research Center 2011 PHD
Database Manager and Research Analyst Community College Research Center 2013 PHD