Third-year Economics PhD student, Elird Haxhiu, always knew he wanted to study something related to public policy. Initially a political science major as an undergrad at the University of Utah, after taking a few economics courses he was, like many, drawn to the field by the way economists approached pressing questions surrounding different human behaviors.

Particularly interested in the phenomenon of migration, Elird completed an undergraduate thesis related to migration in Kosovo and Albania under the supervision of his faculty mentor on the project, Dr. Peter Philips. By his junior year, Elird knew he wanted to pursue his doctorate in the field and was able to further increase his research proficiency through collaborating with Peter on other projects, including one related to apprenticeship training in the construction industry. Elird attributes his understanding of research and what the goals of writing a paper should be to Peter and would consider it a great accomplishment to become half the researcher and educator as his mentor.

It was the spirit of friendship and collaboration observed between students, faculty, and staff during the PhD Preview Day that ultimately cemented Elird’s decision to join the Leaders and Best—and he’s found his experiences thus far to be in line with this impression. To Elird, being a leader means bringing out the best in others and he feels he is surrounded by some amazing leaders at U-M. Every time he gets the chance to talk about his ideas with his friends and colleagues, he feels his best is brought out. He knows he can rely on their support on a daily basis.

Elird finds the atmosphere here to be incredibly motivating, as well. He loves coming into the office, seeing his friends in the department—knowing there is always someone around to talk to or commiserate with or to escape the office for a bit as he chips away at his short- and long-term to-do’s. Though he is quite focused on his research goals, which one could imagine being somewhat lonely when working alone in an office for hours on end, he says he doesn’t feel lonely at all; rather, he feels lucky to have so many brilliant and compassionate people around that are going through the same journey.

Upon reflection, Elird finds while the questions he cared about most when starting out in economics haven’t really changed, the way he thinks about them has continued to evolve. Elird’s current work focuses on the interaction of family migration decisions and peer effects. He aims to contribute to the shared understanding of its motivations and consequences and consider ways in which it could contribute to human development. He emphasizes what a consequential life decision it is: to uproot entire lives and move—sometimes multiple times. He expects that many changes we see in society will contribute to increased migration as it continues to become more of a global phenomenon.

Looking forward, Elird never wants to leave the environment of a college campus. He relishes the idea that he could one day have the freedom to pursue his research questions and would love to be a professor while, hopefully, making some non-negligible contribution to the field.