KSU graduate receives Fulbright Award
It’s no surprise that Erica Moody had job offers lined up prior to graduating from Kennesaw State University this spring. A University Honors Program student and Coles College of Business Scholar, Moody graduated magna cum laude with a degree in economics.
Moody accepted what she considers an even better opportunity: being awarded a Fulbright Study/Research Award. She will depart this fall for a one-year master’s program in behavioral economics at the prestigious University of Nottingham in England.
“It was simply an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Moody said, “being awarded a scholarship to study at a university regarded as one of the world’s leading institutions for economics. I’m so excited.”
Moody became interested in behavioral economics on an education abroad trip she took last year to Guatemala through the Coles Scholars program. Behavioral economics examines how people’s actual behavior, influenced by psychological and contextual biases, differs from classical economic theory which assumes that people are perfectly rational decision-makers.
Moody and fellow students participated in an effort to establish a community bank in Guatemala, which has one of the highest poverty rates in Latin America. Policy and infrastructure failures have hindered the country’s rural poor from reaping the same benefits from economic growth as upper- and middle-class citizens, Moody explained.
“People are being kept in poverty based on the rules that are in place,” she said. “Public policy, which is largely influenced by economic theory, often fails to consider the role human factors play in policy outcomes. I want to help the poor by learning how to create and implement policy that takes into consideration the way people actually are as opposed to the way classical economics assumes they should be. If this is accomplished, we could see much more positive change than we do now.”
The experience in Guatemala was one of three education abroad trips Moody took as a KSU undergraduate. She also ventured to Kennesaw State’s campus in Montepulciano, Italy through the Great Books Honors program, and spent a semester in Madrid, Spain.
“Of course you study abroad to study – and you do learn in the classroom – but you learn so much more outside of the classroom,” Moody said. “Your entire belief system is sometimes challenged. It’s a very introspective experience. There’s always a different perspective, and it frames the way you see your own problems and your own victories.”
Along with her travels to Italy, Spain and Central America, Moody held several leadership roles in Kennesaw State’s Student Managed Investment Fund. She was a member of the group that took first place in a portfolio competition among 41 colleges at an event in New York City and was the leader for the KSU team that won the CFA Institute Research Challenge Southern Classic competition.
“Even in a group of high achievers, she stood out as a mentor, leader and role model to her peers – not just in intellect but in modesty as well,” said Govind Hariharan, a Kennesaw State economics professor and the SMIF faculty advisor. “In my 13 years at KSU, I have realized that the best students can outshine the best anywhere, and she certainly is among the best.”
Moody is thankful she didn’t stick to her original plan – to attend Kennesaw State for a couple years and then transfer. She said that being part of the Honors Program’s Great Books cohort “got (her) hooked” on KSU, and the experiences she continued to have further validated her decision to graduate as an Owl.
“I absolutely love this university,” Moody said. “It’s so easy to get involved and so easy to fall in love with this school. Professors here not only take the time to get to know their students, but take a genuine interest in their students’ lives. They really are invested in our futures and in our successes.”
Speaking of investments, the Fulbright Study/Research Award is the latest of several scholarships Moody received. She attended Kennesaw State on the Zell Miller Scholarship, earned a Donald Dalton Scholarship (awarded to an outstanding Coles College Scholars students) and received KSU Global Learning Scholarships that enabled her to take her education abroad trips.
“So many people, whether they know it or not, have helped me in the process to get where I am today,” Moody said. “I am so grateful to every single person who has invested in me and believed in me.”
“Erica's intellectual acuity and personal poise is striking,” said Michelle Miles, KSU’s director of national and international scholarships and fellowships. “It is no exaggeration to say that Erica will hit the ground running and leave a meaningful footprint. Her success is a testament to both her innate strengths and the formidable faculty members who have supported her throughout her development.”
After she completes her master’s degree, Moody is interested in working as a behavioral economics consultant with a non-profit or philanthropic organization. She ultimately wants to become an economics professor – and combine two of her passions, teaching and traveling.
“The end goal is to be a professor who takes students on study-abroad trips,” she said with a laugh.
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.