Chang Ge’s interest in Economics was borne from an effort to connect with her father. Finding it difficult to find a topic that interested them both, in 7th grade Chang discovered the sarcastic comics that had attracted her to The Economist—a magazine she had initially picked up to practice English—were also helpful in starting conversations with her father around the news and economics. To keep the conversations going, Chang continued purchasing the magazine and found it subtly influencing her over time. When it came time to pursue a subject in college, one that included economics was an obvious choice.
While pursuing International Business as an undergraduate at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Chang conducted several research projects related to economic policies and industrial organization, and held internships which provided both a broad experience and a general sense of how the different facets of an economy came together to help form the whole. Chang also established a startup company in Hong Kong with a Canadian co-founder and successfully sold it. After graduating in 2018, Chang worked in a German strategic consulting company for half a year and traveled around the world on her own for the other half.
Though she initially planned her future around maximizing her own utility (i.e. finding a lucrative career upon which to build her life), it was during her globetrotting that Chang came to see the pervasiveness of inequality. Overwhelmed by the various plights of those she saw, Chang felt she could no longer hide behind her ignorance as an excuse for not attempting to help. After taking some time to reflect on what she had to contribute given her knowledge and experience, Chang decided further economics training would be instrumental in her making a difference, and she began applying to Masters programs in the field. Recognizing the unparalleled quality in teaching in research, as well as the international reputation of the University of Michigan, Chang found the MAE program offered by the Economics Department to align with her interested and learning objectives. The MAE program allowed Chang the flexibility to design her own interdisciplinary degree by taking classes offered by many departments at the university, and, foreseeing a workspace integrated with computer science as inevitable, she has taken advantage of this through expanding her coding skills beyond the basic and intermediate levels covered in the core economics courses for her degree.
From joining student clubs and associations like the Student Astronomical Society (SAS) and the Philosophy Club to enrich comprehensive understanding of nature science and social science, to proving her skills as a photographer by having her work from a visit to the Sahara Desert final-listed in a U-M photography contest, Chang has found ways to engage with the larger U-M community beyond the classroom. During her first year at U-M, in addition to tutoring undergraduate math and statistics students, Chang worked as a research assistant at the U-M Medical School which facilitated joint projects undertaken by Peking University and U-M where she was amazed to find her knowledge in economics could help scientists in other disciplines.
Now in the final year of her MAE program, Chang has found the impacts of COVID-19 on daily and scholarly life to be both a challenge and, at times, an opportunity. Though it is more difficult to find funding and there are fewer PhD positions available as she looks at her next step, she has found that having her courses recorded allowed her to slow down or rewind the recording to answer questions she may not have had answered in a typical classroom setting. In Ann Arbor and unable to visit home, Chang has been able to fight isolation and stay in touch with peers and friends by utilizing Zoom calls, even finding a way to do group yoga remotely to exercise together. Furthermore, Chang has not allowed COVID-19 to derail her scholarly pursuits or distract her from her core motivations.
Arriving on campus most interested in quantitative analysis of inequality, this is still her interest now--having not only been impressed by the ubiquity of inequality she’d witnessed in her international travels, but also identifying as a person belonging to several minority groups/identities, Chang feels it is her duty to fight for equal rights and is currently doing research on gender, race and disability inequality with evidence from the career ladder. As she explores this research, Chang’s experience this year working as a teaching assistant for Professor Yue Maggie Zhou at the U-M Ross School of Business has inspired her to become a scholar and pursue a PhD after her current master’s program is complete. She is particularly passionate about the intersection of business economics and sociology, possibly utilizing python to crawl data from websites and conduct research not covered before, and looks forward to her future career in academia.
To those just starting out at U-M, Chang would advise viewing your program as a warm host family and to seek advice from faculty and staff rather than over-stressing yourself. Having a great academic record is always something to be proud of, however, becoming a better self by learning to cope with life’s imperfections will only advance you further.