The Department of Economics is teaming with Peru’s Universidad de Piura for a new undergraduate summer research exchange program that focuses on how behavioral economics can inform public policy-making on such topics as environment, health, technology, and education.
The 23-day-long program from July 2 to 25 will be run on the Virginia Tech end by Department Head Sudipta Sarangi, Professor Sheryl Ball, and Assistant Professor Alec Smith. It entails pairing 10 students from Virginia Tech with 10 students from the University of Peru for an online session in week one, a session in Blacksburg at the Department of Economics’ experimental lab during week two, and travel to Piura and Lima for 10 days of policy workshops then field experiments with local communities.
This is the first such program for the department. (Any student at Virginia Tech is welcome on the venture. With scholarships, the total cost will be $1,700 plus tuition per student.)
“In an economics lab experiment, students participate in incentivized experiments where they learn according to the decisions they make. This is a great way to test out theories and policies in a very controlled environment,” Sarangi said. In Peru, Virginia Tech students will board with Peruvian families.
Much of the research exchange program’s design came from Marcos Agurto, director of the Lima School of Economics in Peru. Sarangi calls it “serendipity.” Two years ago, Agurto was visiting his wife, who was working on her Ph.D. with Virginia Tech’s Department of Statistics. Agurto asked for some office space in Sarangi’s department’s location at Pamplin Hall. The two began talking.
“Really, one coffee too many led to this program,” Sarangi said.