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Aaron Wolf talks about final year

A day in the life

Aaron Wolf talks about final year


People view economics as business, but it’s more than that – it’s not ‘business first’ or ‘capitalism first.’ My profs are writing about poverty, inequality, labour issues, gender and race inequality. Research in this department has a view to how the most vulnerable populations are affected.

"Developing" a set of skills

Aaron Wolf became interested in international development while still in high school. But after a trip to Kenya in grade 12, Aaron “recognized I didn’t know what I was doing,” he says. “It was characteristic of ‘voluntourism’ – I saw that I needed a set of skills before I could do something effective. Would you work in the OR if you aren’t a surgeon? No,” he says with a smile.

“Development doesn’t have to be in ‘developing countries,’” he quickly adds, explaining he’s also made first-hand observations in rural communities in his home province of Nova Scotia. “The process, wherever it happens, is interesting and complex.”

So Aaron came to Dal wanting “to mix [international development] with management. But after taking an Economics class, "I realized I like math way too much to not have it in my life,” he says. “Also, I learned valuable skills – the math, statistics, and logic behind decision-making.” So he switched his focus to a double major in Economics (honours) and International Development Studies (IDS).

How does economics come to bear on his IDS courses? For one thing, in “monitoring and evaluating decisions. Econometrics is all about data, but no amount of fancy econometrics can make up for bad research design. The design of experiments is something they stress in IDS courses, but most people haven’t done it. So it was important to learn how to take a research question, gather data, and evaluate if what you did was effective.”

... and applying those skills in real-world situations

While serving as VP internal on Dal’s student council, Aaron had an unexpected opportunity to apply his new skills: “We were looking at some issues with the student health plan,” he explains. “I used principles from my Health Economics course to construct a model to anticipate what we’d need and what would happen.” Though one option initially seemed to offer “huge cost savings,” it turned out not to be the case.

“No one else was thinking about it [in those terms],” he adds. “It changes the discussion when you can bring in math and logic. That was my comparative advantage in solving that problem.”

Aside from being VP internal, Aaron was a receiver on the football team for two years. “I really enjoyed that but didn’t have time last year because of the student union. I was also involved with Dal Fencing, and during second year I worked with Phoenix Youth as a live-in residence assistant.

“Getting involved in these ways has also allowed me to apply my skills. I thought it was clichéd when I heard other students say that, but I actually did! I had a whole different perspective that no one else had. That’s why economics is valuable - it’s a whole other set of skills.”