Bagwell Center Shines Spotlight on Undergraduate Research

KENNESAW, Ga. (Sep 11, 2018) — The Bagwell Center for the Study of Markets and Economic Opportunity launched a new working paper series in July to feature research conducted by the center’s undergraduate fellows. Included in the first issue are provocative studies on economic freedom, cryptocurrency, and market factors affecting illicit drug prices.

See the first issue of the Bagwell Center Undergraduate Working Paper Series.

Open to all undergraduate students at Kennesaw State University, the Bagwell Center’s undergraduate research fellowship supports student-driven research into the societal impact of market institutions. Each student works alongside a faculty advisor throughout the academic year to produce a research paper eligible for publication in peer-reviewed academic journals.

Steve Balliew
Student Sean Balliew presents his research in April at the Georgia Association of Economics and Finance Annual Conference

The first cohort of fellows includes finance major Sean Balliew, economics major Robbie Skinner, and software engineering major Dave Hagemann. Their research papers examine a wide array of topics from the perspective of the Bagwell Center’s mission to help students understand the critical relationship between free-market institutions, individual choice, and economic outcomes.

“It is important for the Bagwell Center to encourage undergraduate students to participate in these kinds of research projects because it gives them the opportunity to engage in the conversation about the impacts of markets on society,” says Dr. Timothy Mathews, director of the Bagwell Center.

“Through these papers, we hope students gain a better understanding of the ways markets work, and we hope they will continue their own research and/or become economically literate citizens.”

According to Mathews, all three studies published in the working paper series say interesting things about people’s relationships to the economy.

Hagemann found that trading on the burgeoning cryptocurrency market can actually be as efficient for buyers and sellers as traditional financial markets. Meanwhile, Skinner’s research into the underground drug economy reveals that many factors that typically influence a product’s price – such as the item’s quality – do not apply to illegal markets; cocaine prices in New York are not influenced by the product’s purity. Finally, in comparing the relationship between a country’s gross domestic product and the economic freedom of its population, Balliew found that different methods of analyzing economic freedom can yield different outcomes.

“Given how important it is to understand and engage with foundational economic principles,” Mathews says, “it is impressive to see a group of undergraduate students do so with clarity, creativity, and intellectual rigor.”

Bagwell Center Undergraduate Fellows
Bagwell Center Undergraduate Fellows Sean Balliew, Dave Hagemann, and Robbie Skinner

Participating in scholarly research was an exciting challenge for the undergraduate fellows, who each say the experience will aid them in achieving their career goals.

“I have learned more about my field of software engineering and how to apply it to other fields than I have in any class,” Hagemann says. “I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work with the Bagwell Center on this project.”

Skinner says the process has deepened his appreciation for academic economics research. “The experience challenged me to raise difficult questions and allowed me an avenue in which I could pursue the answers,” he says.

Similarly, Balliew says this project was his first exposure to the academic research process.

“As a student studying finance who has entrepreneurial goals, academic methods of research were always foreign to me,” he says, “but I have always been curious about how certain elements of the process lead to new and original ideas that can be applied to the business world.”

With his research paper on economic freedom, Balliew now has the chance to contribute some new and original ideas of his own to the business world. The Southern Economic Association is currently reviewing his research paper for potential publication in the prestigious Southern Economic Journal.

Mathews says the quality of the research conducted by the Bagwell Center’s first cohort of undergraduate research fellows gives him hope for the program’s future.

“Their research will contribute to a body of literature that aims to explore the importance of liberty and free markets with respect to human welfare.”

The center takes on a new cohort of fellows each year. Mathews encourages all creative, academically strong students with an interest in pursuing their own research goals to learn more about the fellowship and to apply at the Undergraduate Research Fellows Homepage.

-Patrick Harbin