U-M’s abundant school spirit and reputation for strong academics ultimately led senior Sophia Cotignola to the decision of leaving her home state of New Jersey for Ann Arbor, Michigan; certain any major she chose would have a robust program to prepare her well for whatever future she sought. In her time here, Sophia has been active in the Department of Economics and shown herself to be not only an outstanding student, but also quite driven—as exemplified by the many opportunities she has seized, gaining hands-on experience through not only two intensive internships, but by serving in a leadership role for an undergraduate club and contributing to economics research, as well.
In the fall of her first year, the Honors student had originally considered a focus on mathematics (as she loved calculus in high school). It was after taking an introductory economics course to satisfy LSA distribution requirements that Sophia knew she had found her field. Recalling it was econ’s “perfect application of math” that drew her in—knowing she could make the major as quantitative and technical as she wanted via elective offerings, whist simultaneously embracing the liberal arts education offered at U-M—Sophia went on to pursue her own research project that following Winter semester. Alongside a professor from the School of Information, Sophia analyzed public World Bank data using Excel and Tableau to assess trends in adolescent fertility rates; piquing her interest in applying data analytics to economics data, Sophia declared the major soon after and would later declare a minor in Statistics.
Taking an analytical route through the major—appreciating how the coursework expands critical and quantitative thinking, assured she is being provided the skills to succeed in almost any analytical and data-driven role—Sophia recalls her favorite course has been Econ 409, a notoriously rigorous course aimed at teaching the main concepts of game theory. Analyzing static and dynamic strategic settings, with complete or incomplete information, the course also covers some of the most important economic applications of game-theoretic reasoning, including competition in oligopolistic markets (a market structure in which only a few firms dominate), trade policy, bargaining, contracting situations, auctions, and signaling in labor markets. Needless to say, the course is math-intensive, however Sophia cites how passionate her peers were about these math applications and that it pushed her to both think critically and apply upper level math concepts to business and strategic decisions.
Preceding her final year, Sophia served as an intern in Asset Management for JPMorgan Chase & Co. Working with analytics for client experience, she was able to pull from the skills learned as a first-year in her own research to create metrics dashboards in Tableau to analyze data, leveraging internal resources and teams to make the graphical displays interactive and streamlined for ongoing use.
Prior to her time at JPMorgan, Sophia had also interned for a tech startup called Krux Digital (now Salesforce), where she analyzed publisher data for a data management platform which offered technology to help clients collect and monetize data for use in creating segments for programmatic advertising. There, she was able to develop a scoring system to value segments, suggested data opportunities directly to clients, and created client documentation using HTML.
As the current president of the Michigan Economics Society (MES), an undergraduate student organization sponsored by the Department of Economics, Sophia has been focused on promoting and celebrating the flexibility of the Economics degree. Passionate about building a strong professional development community within the department, and steadfast in believing one of the Economics Department’s greatest assets is its students—who work hard to apply and tailor their degrees to a wide variety of career aspirations—Sophia hopes her position with MES has helped provide a space for students to learn from one another and grow professionally.
With the department of Academic Innovation, Sophia has been involved with the Digital Innovation Greenhouse where she has been working on the team for the past two years to help develop a “Transcript of the Future.” Through quantifying variables, such as the ability of a student or difficulty of a course to better represent a student’s academic experience, Sophia has learned much from this incredible opportunity including how to code in “R.” Developing further her statistical and data science knowledge, all while also learning about education research on campus, Sophia has found she loves learning about the economics of education.
For Sophia, the best part of the college experience has been keeping an open mind, working hard, and discovering passions—especially when attending one of the best universities in the world. Though she came to campus undecided about what to study, fixated on immediately picking a major in order to stick to a four-year plan, she is very happy with where her life has taken her despite the changes along the way. As she nears the end of her final year of undergraduate studies, Sophia finds herself optimistic: citing an interest in analyzing data and seeking a career that is both challenging and technical, hoping to one day apply her skills towards improving the education system. She is confident in her degree and the path to both discovery and success it will help lay out ahead of her as she looks forward to the goals she hopes to achieve (and create) along the way.