Sixth-year PhD student, Samuel Haltenhof discovered economics as a sophomore at Pomona College in California. While he knew right away he wanted to pursue the field—finding it very practical, using math to convincingly substantiate observations in approaching real-world issues—Sam, at the counsel of his undergraduate advisor, decided to take a brief break from academia and enter the work force to determine whether a career in economics was really for him.

After two years in D.C. working with the Board of Governors—having published his first paper on the credit crunch in the U.S. banking system around the Great Recession and been exposed to various new software and programming languages (as well as other tools he would later find useful when developing his own research)—Sam began applying to graduate programs with the support of his mentors. 

Though he applied many places, the “small feel” of Ann Arbor appealed to Sam—as did the atmosphere of cooperation among the friendly and supportive (if sleep-deprived) graduate students he met during his visit. Sam has been pleased to find his experience thus far to be in line with his initial impressions and even when he’s struggled, the camaraderie and friendships he’s made with peers and faculty have kept Sam going. He feels strongly he would not have made it this far without the support he’s found here in Lorch.

Drawn to trade economics and pursuing his interests in the labor impacts of trade between countries, Sam’s current research focuses on the role policy may play in getting people back to work after facing competition from import penetration. In particular, he is exploring the role the Hartz Reforms played on different sectors of the German economy following the “China Shock,” an unexpected arrival of heavy import competition from China in the early 2000s. Previously, Sam has co-authored a paper on the relationship between GDP per capita and real exchanges rates with his adviser, Javier Cravino, and is working on another project about the interplay of services trade and the internet.

Sam always knew he wanted to teach and influence students. As a graduate student instructor (GSI), he has already seized the opportunity to begin doing so; working with instructors and gaining first-hand experience in the classroom, this role has solidified his resolve to pursue teaching economics as a career. It has also given Sam a space to display his aptitude for instruction, for which he has gained recognition by receiving the Department of Economics’ “Outstanding GSI Award” in April 2018.

As a first-generation student (and PhD student, no less), education has always been a big priority in Sam’s life, and the biggest priority to his parents. Motivated by the idea he might provide the same sort of support to others in the way his parents did for him, Sam hopes to make a difference wherever his career takes him—whether it’s pushing the literature in a new direction, educating new generations of economists, or working with data analysis in the private sector, Sam trusts the skills gained here at U-M will be put to good use.