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I am presently a Professor of Economics and Director of the Honors Economics Program at Vanderbilt University; Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research; President of the International Economics and Finance Society; Associate Editor of the Journal of Monetary Economics; and Senior Fellow at the Globalization and Monetary Policy Institute of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
In the terms of Paul Harvey, “here is the rest of the story…”
I was born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada on September 10, 1962, along with my twin sister, Sandra. Coincidentally we arrived in the world on the sixth birthday of our beloved sister, Margaret. Not the gift she had envisioned perhaps.
The first time I left home for any extended period was to pursue my bachelors degree at the University of Western Ontario (UWO), now called Western University, in London Ontario. At Western, I selected the economics major and took lots of fascinating math courses as well a core set of liberal arts courses. I pursued an Honors degree which meant taking some of the masters level courses and writing an Honors Thesis. My Honors Thesis was about the Canada-U.S. Auto-Pact Trade agreement, supervised by Professor Wonnacott. The Honors program was one of many rewarding educational experiences in my life, I learned a lot and made friends of both fellow students and faculty. One of those friends was a year behind me in the program, Chris Telmer, now an economics professor at Carnegie-Mellon University. It is difficult to fathom that almost twenty years after we both graduated from Western we published a joint paper in the American Economic Review with coauthor, Marios Zachariadis. Often the intense competitive pressure in academy leads to difficult choices between personal and professional. Few things are more rewarding than publishing a journal article with long-time friend.
From UWO, I headed to the Bank of Canada to work as a research assistant in 1985. This was a common path for UGs in Canada who were planning to head to graduate study in economics. At the time I was at the Bank, the Latin American debt crisis became acute and given the significant exposure of Canadian banks to these countries, this was very much a focal point of policy at the time. When not engaged in helping senior economists with current data or preparing data and tables for the Bank of Canada Review, I worked closely with Sean O’Connor on seasonal adjustment. This work involved quite sophisticated Monte Carlo analysis and I began to appreciate the practical value of the time series econometrics taught to me by Robin Carter at UWO years earlier. I visited the Bank of Canada with my coauthor Takayuki Tsuruga in 2010, almost to the day Sean retired from the Bank! As was the tradition in 1985, a large group of economists young and old went for beer Friday after work — on this occasion to honor Sean’s service to the Bank. For me, it was acknowledgement of my second research mentor (after Ron Wonnacott), and visit with a friend.
After a summer and an academic year at the Bank of Canada, I headed to graduate school. I recall being accepted into three PhD programs, the University of Chicago, the University of Rochester and Queen’s University. At the time, Chicago was did not fund many (if any) first-year students, so, the decision for me, was primarily financial and I went to Rochester. Ex post, it is not obvious to me that attending Chicago would have been preferable had funding been comparable, at least in terms of value-added — there is only so much even the best scholars could help with the raw material that is me!
At Rochester, my primary field was macroeconomic theory and my secondary field was econometrics. I was offered teaching assistantships in PhD microeconomic theory and PhD macroeconomic theory and choose the later, following in the large footsteps of Sergio Rebelo, my TA for Bob King’s course. As expected, I learned a lot more macroeconomic theory being the TA for Bob King than I did taking the course. This is the first thing you learn about the value of being a professor in an academic setting, the incentives to stay abreast of the current research are closely aligned between the student and the teacher.
My main dissertation adviser was Marianne Baxter, an assistant professor at the time. The other committee members were Robert King (who had recently been awarded an NSF Young Investigators Award) and James Kahn, also an assistant professor. This was an extraordinary committee and I learned a lot from each member and continued to collaborate with Baxter and Kahn long after graduation.
I graduated in 1991 after 5 years, the title of my dissertation was: “The Transmission of Business Cycles in the Open Economy.” The main chapter was one of the first extensions of the famous Kydland-Prescott framework to open economies in general equilibrium and emphasized the role of relative country size in the transmission and volatility of business cycles across countries. The basic mechanism is an intertemporal analogue to Harry Johnson’s famous work on country size and the terms of trade. In a nutshell, the smaller the economy the less effect its shocks have on the world interest rate and the more volatile its business cycle.
I entered the job market during the recession of 1991 and received offers from the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, Ohio State University and Simon Fraser University.