Economics Professor and Student form Research Partnership


To hear Patrick Lynch explain his recent research project, it was as if he had just purchased a new box of tools from the Home Depot, and he was itching to try them out. Those tools were the principles he learned in Prof. John-Charles Bradbury’s econometrics class, and the junior from Lexington, Ky., was looking for a way to put them to work. He found that in the form of a study of Georgia’s Hope Scholarships to examine possible effects they were having on Georgia students who made application to Sewanee, the University of the South. “I was speaking to Prof. Bradbury in his office one day, and the idea for this project really began to take shape,” said Lynch. “He suggested that I apply for a summer research grant, which is funded by the economics department, so I could do the work.” “Patrick told me he wanted to do something productive,” says Bradbury, “so I encouraged him to apply for the grant, which provided him with a stipend to remain in Sewanee during the summer to work on the project.” With his grant application approved, Lynch began work on the project. “There has been a big increase in the availability of merit scholarships during the past decade. Until the early 1990s, most aid was need based,” explains Lynch. “Most of these merit scholarships are awarded to students to go to school in their home state. One of the most visible of these is the Hope Scholarship in Georgia, which began in 1993.” Since Georgia is second only to Tennessee in the numbers of its students who attend Sewanee, Lynch said he wanted to find out if the Hope Scholarships were reducing the numbers of Georgians attending the University. Using data supplied by Sewanee’s Office of Admission, Lynch, with the aid of Bradbury, created a model, controlling for specific variables, that allowed for an analysis of Georgia student admissions during a ten-year period that spanned both sides of the Hope Scholarship introduction. What he found was that, while the Hope may have had an impact on certain individual students, it didn’t affect the overall numbers of Georgians enrolling at Sewanee, which remained steady. But even more than that, he learned how to use the tools he had been given from his professor. “I’ve had some time to think about my experience, now,” says Lynch, “and I can say that this is an opportunity that I certainly wouldn’t have had if I’d decided to stay home and go to my state university. I was doing econometric analysis with a Ph.D. professor, and I was someone who had just finished his sophomore year. It taught me a lot. I have a much stronger grasp, now, of econometric principles and how they work in real life. This project really showed me that connection. It’s one thing to sit in class and learn from a text, it’s another to do it. It was pretty amazing to see how accurate the advance predictions we made about the project were when all the data was in.” For Bradbury, the experience was equally rewarding. “How often do you have a sophomore student who can come in and do a project like this? We would meet and Patrick let me know how he was planning to do. He really ran this, my job was to act as the guardrail and to keep him on the road. I really enjoyed this, and these are the kinds of projects I was hoping to do when I joined the faculty here (three years ago). Most students at other schools don’t get to work on something like this until they get to graduate school. I’d love to do this again.”

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