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Meet Colorado’s Women in Economics Fellow

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University of Denver

Sumaiya Nehla Saif (MA '19) graduated with an MA in economics at DU and is now the Women in Economics Fellow through the Common Sense Policy Roundtable (CSPR), a think tank dedicated to Colorado’s economy.

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Economics award

Sumaiya Nehla Saif (MA '19) grew up in the heart of Dhaka city, the capital of Bangladesh, located in South Asia. Before coming to DU, Saif earned her undergraduate degree at Asian University for Women, South Asia’s first and only international, all-women’s liberal arts school. In 2019, she graduated with a Master of Arts in economics from DU with highest honors.

“I pursued an interdisciplinary major in politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) during my undergrad to get a more holistic background before I specialized in economics in a graduate program,” Saif explains. “Even before coming [to DU], I knew I wanted to write my thesis along the lines of international trade and development, as well as the role of policy, international institutions and global inequality.”

DU offered a number of faculty who specialized in these areas and the department provided full funding and a stipend, making it possible for Saif to pursue her passion in the field of economics. As a graduate teaching assistant and research assistant, Saif was able to explore a range of sub-disciplines while gaining valuable work experience.

“These research experiences, coupled with my graduate thesis, allowed me to learn and research across various countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, Brazil and South Korea.”

Sumaiya Saif

In both the Economics Department and Josef Korbel School of International Studies, Saif researched topics like female entrepreneurship and management practices, as well as public sector efficiency and effectiveness in health care, among others.

Saif further states, “I particularly loved writing my thesis with Dr. Chiara Piovani — she is a commendable scholar and super fun to work with. She made sure I enjoyed writing those 150 pages — and I really did.”

Saif holds a breadth of experience in academic research and an internship at a development bank but contends that there is still a long way to go to further excel in this career path.

When asked for advice for other master’s students in pursuit of a similar career, Saif explains that self-reflection is one of the key ingredients in research.

“Self-reflection is really important to know whether the job is the right fit for you. Learning about the market, policy, legislation, etc. is a skill or task that you can teach yourself. Quantitative skills can also be self-taught.”

But, Saif adds, reflecting on whether or not you enjoy critical thinking and strengthening your analytical skills accordingly, is crucial. “Research is a riling process,” she says, “and you need to enjoy it for your own sanity if you want to pursue it.”

During her time in DU’s economics program, Saif received the Edmund Barbour Award for Outstanding Achievement and the Satish Raichur Award for Excellence of a Graduate Student in the Study of Political Economy. Saif’s dedication to her studies, her teaching and her research are apparent not only in these accomplishments, but in her recent position as the Women in Economics Fellow through the Common Sense Policy Roundtable (CSPR), a think tank dedicated to Colorado’s economy.

“CSPR strives to research and promote common sense solutions for economic issues facing Colorado, such as health, education, energy, housing and transportation,” Saif says.

“As the Women in Economics Fellow, I get to be part of the rigorous research that is integral in analyzing the future of the economy of Colorado. In particular, I really appreciate that CSPR is bi-partisan and produces research that will better inform Coloradans on prevailing issues.”

Saif hopes to pursue similar work in consulting and research for a think tank or research institute that caters to public policy.

“I think it is fun and important to look at prevailing issues from a comprehensive and interdisciplinary perspective. Rather, it is indispensable for the social and economic development of the economy — whether national or global.”

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