Rodney Hughes (ICPES 04, IIPES 05) is a prime example of an alumnus who has launched a career based on the education and values learned during his summers with TFAS. As a graduate student at Penn State University, he says he is trying to pass along what he has learned to other students in the classroom and beyond.
Since graduating from his second institute (IIPES) in 2005, Hughes has served as a recruiter and alumni ambassador for TFAS and has also recruited three Penn State students to four TFAS programs.
Hughes decided to continue his post-undergraduate education and spread the word about TFAS because his own TFAS experiences “reinforced for me that community engagement is valuable along with academic pursuits.”
Currently in his first year in the Ph.D. program in economics at Penn State, Hughes also serves as a recitation leader for an intermediate microeconomics class, where he teaches two recitations each semester.
Hughes says TFAS’ legendary professor “Uncle George” Viksnins has served as a significant role model for him as he prepares to teach his first complete economics course on advanced international trade this summer.
“Uncle George has said…he doesn’t try to reach to just the top ten, but rather the top 80 or 90. That is something I always keep in mind,” said Hughes.
Hughes also agrees with Viksnins’ idea that students in introductory courses should be taught the history of economics and its institutional realities – not just mathematical proofs.
During his summer with ICPES, Hughes was exposed to this type of teaching, both in Viksnins’ class and at his internship with the U.S. Department of Commerce in the International Trade Administration. The lessons he learned about trade policy have stayed with him.
After his summer in Washington, Hughes began to think about economics “in terms of a theme I picked up from ICPES: how the actions of governments can impact economic conditions and citizens’ well being,” which is something he continues to focus on both in his own studies and what he teaches his students.
Hughes followed his time in D.C. with a summer in Greece during IIPES in 2005. He says that this time with IIPES “sharpened” his interests in economics and trade.
After completing IIPES, I wanted to do something meaningful across the areas of political economy and development. This is the main reason I began a Ph.D. program in economics,” says Hughes.
Hughes graduated from Penn State and the Schreyer Honors College with a B.S. with Honors and Highest Distinction in Economics in May 2007 with a minor in mathematics and philosophy. He was also the recipient of Penn State’s James Rodgers Award from the Department of Economics and was awarded the Thesis Prize from Phi Beta Kappa Society.
In his free time, Hughes serves as the awards chair Phi Beta Kappa and volunteers with a mentor program through the PSU Schreyer Honors College.