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SYLFF Fellowship

Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund

The Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund was launched in 1987 by the Nippon Foundation (formerly, The Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation or The Sasakawa Foundation). The goal of the SYLFF Program is to nurture future leaders who will overcome geopolitical, religious, ethnic, and cultural boundaries and actively participate in the world community for peace and the well-being of humankind. Under the SYLFF Program, The Nippon Foundation has endowed one million dollars to each institutions of higher learning, from which fellowships are awarded to graduate students enrolled in social sciences and humanities fields. To date, endowments of one million dollars each have been presented to 69 universities and consortia in 44 countries. About 15,000 students have received fellowships since the launch of the program in 1987. These SYLFF Fellows have been active in a diversity of fields following their graduation. The Economics Department at the University of Michigan is honored to be a recipient of the SYLFF endowment.

As part of the SYLFF program, The Economics Department offers two different types of fellowships for students.   The first is used as a recruiting tool for incoming Ph.D. students. This fellowship offers students tuition, healthcare and a generous stipend to support them during the first full year as a graduate student in Economics. The second SYLFF Fellowship supports students who have reached Ph.D. candidacy. This one-term funding opportunity provides tuition, stipend and health insurance to provide a semester of dedicated research time to these students. Priority is given to students who are in the final stages of their dissertation research and plan to go on the job market within the next year.  A competition is held for both Fall and Winter semesters. For more information on this please contact the graduate coordinator.

Current SYLFF Fellows

Hayley Abourezk-Pinkstone

Hayley is an economics PhD student at the University of Michgian with an interest in studying microeconomic theory and applied microeconomics. Her research interests include many topics from game theory, labor economics, and the economics of education. Hayley also has experience with research in experimental game theory, and recently contributed to an economic history project that involved modeling and analyzing medival English grain markets. Hayley is from Ventura, CA and received her BA in mathetmatics and economics with a concentration in economic theory from Lewis & Clark College in May 2017.

Paul Brimble

Paul Brimble is a doctoral student at the University of Michigan with a focus on development economics. Previously, he was a research assistant in development economics at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, working at the Mind and Behaviour Research Group (MBRG), Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) and Digital Pathways at Oxford between 2019 and 2022. Prior to this, he was economic advisor on the ODI Fellowship Scheme at the Rwandan Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning where he worked at the Macroeconomic Policy Unit in the Office of the Government Chief Economist between 2017 and 2019. He completed an MPhil in Economics at the University of Oxford in 2017 and a BA in Economics at the University of Cambridge in 2015. 

Brian Daza

Brian Daza is a Ph.D. student in economics at the University of Michigan. His interests span fields like development economics, international trade and labor. He previously worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the World Bank's Development Impact Evaluation group, Universidad del Pacifico, and the Ministry of Transports and the Ministry of Education of Peru. Brian holds a Bachelor of Economics from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos and an M.A.Sc. in Data, Economics and Development POlicy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Yasar Ersan

Yasar Ersan is a fifth-year candidate in the Department of Economics. His fields of specializaiton are development economics, economic history, and finance. His research focuses on uderstanding the impact of schooling on financial behavior and the effectiveness of behavioral policies on investment behavior. Another body of his research focuses on explaining the cuase of long-run economic growth and how  historical interventions in education and health affect long-run economic development. He also has articles on how market microstructure affects the trading environment in a stock exchange market context. Before the University of Michigan, he obtained his Master's Degree and Bachelor of Economics from Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey.

Michael Finnegan

Michael Finnegan  graduated summa cum laude from theUniversity of Alabama, where he simultaneously earned a B.S. in Economics and Mathematicsalong with an M.A. in Economics. His Master’s thesis was on identifying the origins of recentincreases of segregation within K-12 schools and was presented at the Urban Economic Association’s annual conference. Before coming to the University of Michigan, he was a Research Assistant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, where he closely worked with both theory and data on a range of urban topics. His interests include topics such as the effects of productivity and amenity spillovers on the distribution of employment across major U.S. cities as well as the role of path dependence (as a result of historical race-based housing policies) in understanding contemporary neighborhood-level housing.

Luis Espinoza Bardales

Luis Espinoza is a Ph.D. in economics student at the University of Michigan. His main research interests are the process of economic structural transformation, both from a historical and a contemporary perspective, and how it can be (or cannot be) fostered by active industrial policies. Moreover, he is interested in the relationship between this process and economic inequality. Before coming to Michigan, Luis worked as a Growth Lab Research Fellow at the Center for International Development at Harvard University. He has also worked as a full-time teaching assistant at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, and as a research assistant at GRADE, a Peruvian think-tank based in Lima. He holds a BA in Economics (2007) and a Diploma in Applied Mathematics (2011) from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, and a Master in Public Administration in International Development (2014) from Harvard University.

Ana Paula Franco

Ana Paula Franco is a graduate student in Economics at the University of Michigan with interests in economic history, labor and development economics. Prior to starting at Michigan, Ana Paula worked as a research fellow at Evidence for Policy Design at the Harvard Kennedy School on projects related to microfinance in Asia. She also worked as a research assistant at Group for the Analysis of Development and Universidad del Pacifico in Lima, Peru, on projects related to labor markets and gender in Latin America. She holds a BA in Economics from Universidad del Pacifico and a MSc in Economics from University College London.

Kianna Freeman

Kianna Freeman is a Ph.D student at the University of Michigan with research interests in development, international and macroeconomic analysis. Prior to starting her Ph.D., Kianna earned a B.S. in Econometrics and Quantitative Economics from the University of South Florida where she preformed research analyzing the socio-economic effectsof oil trade with the U.S. on Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. She hopes to further analyze the effects of relationships between first-world countries and developing regions, such as Latin American and Caribbean region.

Ariza Gusti

Ariza Gusti is a PhD student in Economics at the University of Michigan. He is originally from Jakarta, Indonesia and came to the United States to pursue his undergraduate degree. He received a BS in Economics from the University of Minnesota. Currently, his research interests lie in the field of applied microeconomics and in particular development, public and labor
economics. His experience living a developing country stimulated his interest in economics and development economics in particular. In his spare time, Ariza is a big fan of sports and follows closely soccer, and basketball games. He also enjoys travelling and exploring new things, especially new cuisines.

Thomas Helgerman

Thomas Helgerman is a graduate student in economics at the University of Michigan with interests in applied microeconomics. As an undergraduate, he conducted research exploring the link between capital inflows and asset price booms. However, Thomas intends to move his focus during graduate study from international economics to labor economics. In particular, he has interests in several topics spanning the economics of education and the economics of gender and the family. Prior to beginning graduate studies at the University of Michigan, Thomas received a BS in Mathematics and Economics as well as a BA in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh.

Michelle Lam

Michelle Lam is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan whose fields are international and labor. She is primarily interested in studying how economic activity shapes geography, ranging from spatial organizations with cities to patterns across countries. Currently, she is studying the rise of urban gentrification and its complex interations with zoning policy in New York City. She also has interests in economic history, studying the Ancient Silk Road and the evolution of trade agreement text post-World War II. Prior to her time at the University of Michigan, Michelle was a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Board and received her undergraduate degree in economics and mathematics from Wellesley College in 2014. Michelle is an accomplished keyboard musician and holds an appointment as carillonist at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church. 

Gabriela Lecaro Calle

Gabriela Lecaro Calle is a first-year PhD student in economics at the University of Michigan. Her interests span fields like development economics, labor economics and various topics in applied microeconomics. She previously worked as a Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and as Research Associate at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). Gabriela holds a BA in Economics from the University of Manchester, and an MSc in International Public Policy from University College London.

Zsigmond Palvolgyi

Zsigmond Pálvölgyi is a first year PhD student at the Department of Economics, University of Michigan with interests in Labor Economics and Public Finance. He recently graduated from Central European University (CEU), where he received
the Peter Hangartner Fellowship and the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award for his excellence in the Economics MA program. During the program he also worked as a research assistant for CEU Microdata. Prior his studies at CEU, he
gained research experience at the Central Bank of Hungary and at Századvég Economic Research Institute.

Tereza Ranosova

Tereza is a Ph.D. student in Economics at the University of Michigan. She graduated fromCharles University (Prague, Czech republic) in 2016, earning a Bc in Economics, and spent ayear as a Visiting Master’s student at a Ph.D. in Economics program at CERGE-EI, a joint workplaceof the Czech Academy of Sciences and Charles University. Throughout 2016 she workedas a teaching assistant and as a research assistant on a project investigating the relationshipsbetween exchange rates and non-price competitiveness of exports. Before CERGE she workedpart-time as a financial analyst in a commercial bank.In her undergraduate thesis she investigated the causes of occupational gender segregation.Utilizing the O*NET database she showed what makes a job in the Czech labor market predominantlymale or female. In Michigan she would like to continue exploring more topics ofempirical labor and international economics, as well as to delve deeper into economic theory.

Nikhil Rao

Nikhil Rao is a first-year PhD student in Economics. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2015 with a BA in Economics and Mathematics. Until recently, he was a Research Assistant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Two broad topics of interest are: understanding the preferential sorting by gender into different fields of study and occupations as well as the selection out of the formal workforce; and understanding the extent to which social assistance programs and immigrant social networks aid immigrants’ economic and cultural integration.

James Reeves

James Reeves received a BA in Economics/Mathematics from Western Washington University and a MA in Economics from the University of Colorado Denver. Most recently, he was a research assistant in the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University. His research interests are primarily in labor and public economics, with a specific focus on crime and the criminal justice system. Some of his current research projects explore gender gaps in career progression, the relationsip between federal tax credits and crime in low-income communities, and the role of housing ordinances in gentrification. 

Marcia Ruiz Pulgar

Marcia Ruiz Pulgar is a Ph.D. student in economics at the University of Michigan. Her current research interests lie in the intersection of Development Economics, Public Economics and Political Economy. Prior to starting at Michigan, Marcia worked as a predoctoral research professional at the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago on topics related to empirical public finance and labor economics. She also worked as a consultant at the InterAmerican Development Bank, and as a research associate at Innovations for Poverty Action. Marcia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru.

Notable SYLFF Fellows

Jordan Matsudaira, PhD (2005)  Dissertation: Essays in Labor and Family Economics

Melinda Miller, PhD (2008)  Dissertation: Essays on Race and the Persistence of Economics Inequality

SYLFF Fellows earning a PhD in Economics (in the past 8 years)

Paul Kindsgrab, PhD (2022) Empirical Essays in Public Economics

Dena Lomonosov, PhD (2022) Essays in Housing and Public Finance

Nafisa Lohawala, PhD (2022) Three Essays on the Effects of Government Policies

Jennifer Mayo, PhD (2022) Essays on the Nonprofit Sector

Merve Sariisik, PhD (2022) Essays on Discrimination and Wage Inequality

Kimberly Conlon, PhD (2020) Essays on Industrial Organization

Pieter De Vlieger, PhD (2020) Essays on Personnel and Health Economics

Huayu Xu, PhD (2020) Essays on Institutions and Development

Hang Yu, PhD (2020) Three Essays in Development Economics

Vybhavi Balasundharam, PhD (2019) Dissertation: Essays on Public Policy and Firm Behavior

Nicolas Morales, PhD (2019) Dissertation: Understanding the Flows of Goods and Workers: General Equilibrium Implications of Migration Policy

Max Risch, PhD (2019) Dissertation: Three Essays on Taxes, Public Policy and the Distribution of Income

Tejawsi Velayudhan, PhD (2019) Dissertation: Essays in Consumption Taxes and Development

Dimitrije Ruzic, PhD (2018) Dissertation: Essays on Firm Heterogeneity in Macroeconomics

Mike Zabek, PhD (2018) Dissertation: Essays on Places and Economic Inequality

Sreyoshi Das, PhD (2017) Dissertation: Essays in Financial Economics

Bryan Stuart, PhD (2017) Dissertation: Essays on the Long-Run Effects of Economic and Social Conditions

Lindsay Baker, PhD (2016) Dissertation: Breastfeeding in the United States: Economic Analyses of Trends and Policies

Nitya Pandalai Nayar, PhD (2016) Dissertation: Essays on Multinationals and International Spillovers

Christian Proebsting, PhD (2016) Dissertation: Essays in International Economics

Ryoko Sato, PhD (2015) Dissertation: Barriers to and Incentives for Health Behaviors among African Women

Anne Fitzpatrick, PhD (2015) Dissertation: Three Essays on Health and Development