Whittier College’s Economics Department is fantastic at preparing students for graduate-level research, according to Economics and Business major Alexander Jelloian. His professors were incredibly helpful in teaching economics material, mentoring him through the process of applying to graduate schools, and being essential sources of support and encouragement. “Whittier College has a great economics department that supports its students and encourages people to ask questions, think critically, and pursue interests. I am very happy to be a small part of it,” said Jelloian.
Professor Bezares Calderón helped Jelloian discover which type of economics he is interested in, between the many subgroups. Professor Bezares Calderón specialized in ‘development economics,’ which explores questions like: “Why is Costa Rica a little wealthier than other Central American nations? Why did the industrial revolution occur in England somewhere else in the world?” The more Jelloian learned from Professor Bezares Calderón about this type of economics, the more interested he became.
“I believe that nations thrive economically when they extend political representation to their populations,” said Jelloian. One of the best ways to do this, in Jelloian’s opinion, is by “encouraging democratic reforms in countries that are ruled by a small minority.” Examples of this include encouraging free-market reforms that would lead to freedoms in opening businesses, changing jobs, voting, moving locations, etc., and — in the case of Somalia — sending supplies to soldiers that are directly involved in regaining control over radical-jihadist groups. This is what he would like to pursue as a career: “At a policy institute, I hope to research the various nuances of these conflicts that are constantly changing throughout the globe, and how the U.S. can go about extending freedom and liberty to more people in the world,” said Jelloian.
He is already on his way to kickstarting that research. Professor White encouraged Jelloian to apply to renowned institutions, and, as a result of doing so, Jelloian was accepted into the London School of Economics for graduate study in Political Economy. This school is “a world-renowned institution with a long list of notable alumni in disciplines like law, history, economics, politics, and some other social sciences,” said Jelloian. He almost mentioned that 18 Nobel prize winners (including Oliver Hart and George Akerlof) had attended that school, whether having graduated from there or worked closely with staff members. “They have a fantastic reputation when it comes to graduate research in economics, which is why I was so thankful to be accepted into their program,” said Jelloian.
The program is called A Master’s of Science in Political Economy of Late Development. “This program looks at why some countries overcome poverty and why others have consistently been unable to do so,” said Jelloian. Here, he will be able to take a deep-dive into the questions he has been exploring during his time at Whittier College.
Of course, like any college student, Jelloian’s whole journey was not focused solely on his majors. He was the captain of the Whittier College Baseball team for two years. His initial reason for enrolling in WC was baseball, as a matter of fact. He had gone to Azusa Pacific before, but quickly found that he wanted more time alongside his studies to play baseball. After speaking to the team’s head coach, Mike Rizzo, Jelloian tried out for the team. “I loved playing for the Poets. We had some really good times and I made some great friendships from those guys on the team,” said Jelloian. It helped that Whittier College was close to home. He grew up in San Fernando Valley and has a strong bond with his family members, so he wanted to stay in Southern California to be able to visit them often.
While at Whittier, Jelloian accomplished a lot. He had the opportunity to present at the Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity conference in 2019 on the impact of free-market economic policy of GDP. He will be speaking at this conference again this year. He was also awarded the Barbara Ondrasik ’57 and David Groce Fellowship for 2020. He used this fellowship to study former President Richard Nixon’s policies that impacted Native Americans. Nixon passed policies that were and still are popular with Native Americans (for example, the Self-Determination Act of 1975), and Jelloian had a great time studying the positive accomplishments of a notoriously-viewed president. “It is important to remember that while an individual can be lacking in one area, they might be quite good and helpful in another,” said Jelloian. His mentor, Professor of History Laura McEnaney, was helpful through the process, and, overall, he viewed it as a fantastic experience within his college career.
In addition, Jelloian was involved in the Christian Student Organization, in which he was able to do Bible study. “I really do thank God for blessing me with the opportunity to go to Whittier, receive an education, play baseball, and meet some fun and fascinating people,” said Jelloian. “Getting involved with the economics department I believe will have lasting effects on my career, so for that I am truly thankful as well.”
As far as advice for WC students, Jelloian said, “Students should always be challenging the assumptions of their professors. It is so important to think critically and look at a variety of viewpoints and then decide what they think the most plausible answer is.” He also hopes for students to understand how fortunate they are for being able to live in the U.S. and attend college, as so little of the world is able to do so. Take advantage of the opportunities presented through WC; Jelloian insists upon it, “History is full of individuals who did extraordinary things. Why can’t one of those positive difference-makers be a Poet?”