Faculty Hires Expand Range of Scholarship

IN A TYPICAL year, one or two new faces join the ranks of Chicago Harris faculty. But as the school continues its rapid strategic expansion, more new scholars are needed to train and inspire the next generation of policy leaders.

This year Chicago Harris has welcomed five new faculty members, fortifying the school’s expertise in political economy and energy policy.

The new hires support an ambitious agenda that also includes plans to expand student enrollment and increase research in urban science, energy, environmental policy and data analytics. In order to better accommodate the needs of the growing school, Harris is also renovating the Edward Durrell Stone building, which will be named the Keller Center in 2019.

“We are thrilled to welcome our new faculty members to Harris,” says Daniel Diermeier,Chicago Harris dean and Emmett Dedmon Professor of Public Administration. “These scholars not only bring unrivaled expertise in their fields of study, but share our commitment to educating policy leaders who put evidence first.”

James Robinson comes to Harris from Harvard University, where he was the Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government and a faculty associate at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. His research focuses on political economy, comparative politics, and economic and political development – specifically, the institutions that determine whether a state succeeds. He co-authored the bestselling book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty in 2012.

“What appeals to me about UChicago is the amazing strength across all departments,” says Robinson, who has been named University Professor. “Everywhere I look at the University, there are scholars who have influenced the way I think and the way I do research.”

Robinson’s research interests intersect with those of Konstantin Sonin, who joins Harris from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Sonin’s work centers on the political economy of non-democratic regimes, using microeconomics to focus on social phenomena, including corruption, dictatorship and poverty.

“The University of Chicago has been the center of the universe for economists for the last half-century, and Harris has a very strong group in exactly my field of study,” says Sonin, who has been named the John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor. “It will be a great privilege to work in such an environment. Obviously, I feel humbled and lucky.”

Peter Buisseret, who comes to Harris from the University of Warwick in England, echoes the sentiment. “Harris is the most exciting place in the world to work on these kinds of questions. It has tremendous academic strength across a diverse range of fields, and a fantastic connection to the places where policy is made,” he says. Buisseret’s focus is political economic theory – specifically, how political institutions like legislative processes and electoral rules affect collective decision-making in societies. He has used game theory to compare the performance of parliamentary and presidential democratic systems, and the consequences of partisanship for democratic accountability.

“Harris is also part of a much wider University research community, with colleagues at Chicago Booth and the Economics Department,” adds Buisseret. “This creates a synergy and a mass of like-minded scholars that would be impossible to replicate at any other institution.”

That sense of synergy also attracted Wioletta Dziuda, formerly an assistant professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “There is a strong political economy group at Harris. I’m excited to be surrounded by people who are familiar with the issues I study,” says Dziuda, who uses microeconomic theory and game theory to examine how legislative bargaining affects policy efficiency. “At the same time, it’s a diverse group. It’s nice to have colleagues who can give you different perspectives on your work.”

One such perspective is that of Koichiro Ito, who will help Harris expand its expertise in the field of energy policy. Ito was formerly an assistant professor at Boston University, and a research fellow at the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Graduate School of Economics at Kyoto University. He studies how consumers respond to pricing and rebate programs in electricity markets, how intrinsic motivation affects economic decisions and how firms react to regulations such as fuel economy standards.

“Chicago Harris has a long tradition of emphasizing the importance of rigorous quantitative analyses for evaluating economic policies,” Ito says. “In addition, Chicago Harris and the University started a series of initiatives that emphasize research in energy and environmental economics. This is a particularly exciting moment to pursue research in this field at the University of Chicago.” 

– Brian Wallheimer