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Exploring Economics, Public Policy, and Cross-Regional Experiences with a PhD

My interest and career choice in urban and regional policy is not an accident, but rather heavily influenced by my upbringing. I was born in a rural township in China and raised by my grandparents in a relatively small urban area located in the northern edge of Guangdong Province.

As I grew up, I became fascinated with the differences between rural and urban life. I also began to realize the disparities in levels of wealth and rates of economic growth across different geographical areas and nations. These cross-regional experiences– from rural areas, to small cities, to megacities, and later to the U.S.– enhanced my passion, leading me towards studies in urban and regional development. My PhD in Public Policy at Northeastern allows me to continue to turn my passion into imperative research with real world implications.

My research began with an  MS in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Iowa (UI). I collaborated with Dr. Haifeng Qian in our study,  Cultural Entrepreneurship in U.S. Cities. This research built upon creative economy frameworks and entrepreneurship development and describes the spatial patterns of cultural entrepreneurship, revealing the roles of regional factors on cultural activities. We presented this research at the 2017 Urban Affair Association Conference, and I was thrilled when the paper won the Best Conference Paper Award. The Journal of Urban Affairs also accepted our paper for publication in 2018.  This early experience was extremely beneficial in bolstering my work in research, which ultimately helped me advance towards my current research.

I am now collaborating with Dr. Qian and Dr. Kinsley Haynes on another research project: Entrepreneurship in Small Cities: Evidence from U.S. Micropolitan Areas. This new study explores regional determinants of entrepreneurship development within the context of small cities in the U.S. The preliminary results of our study suggest interesting and different patterns of micropolitan entrepreneurship compared to metropolitan entrepreneurship. For example: results indicate that the Baby Boomer and middle age generations have a positive contribution on micropolitan entrepreneurship in that increasing in-migration of the older generation to small cities brings wealth to these communities and supports local businesses. This study is currently under the peer review process and I will be presenting it early November at the 2018 Conference of the Regional Science Association International.

I can continue my current research interests through my PhD in Public Policy, with integral guidance from my current advisor, Professor Clayton-Matthews, experienced Northeastern professors, and classes. The interdisciplinary environment at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs provides me the opportunity and flexibility to take courses in not only public policy, but also criminal justice, and economy. Specifically, Urban Economic Development, Strategizing Public Policy, Economic Regulations, Research Methods, and The Open Classroom played an important role in my progression in research and policy discussion. My classes taught me how government actions could affect these issues and can play a role in addressing market failure, generating employment opportunities, and promoting social equity. In Urban Economic Development, for example, Professor Bluestone taught me about how to present empirical data to analyze economic and political issues facing cities and towns. I learned about the nuances regarding efficiency and equity of current government policies: despite the current economic boom, rising family and intergenerational poverty indicate growing social inequality and imply the need for redistribution of wealth and income. Because of these classes and my professors, I can now effectively question how government activities impact the economy and society, and how public and private institutions can more efficiently and effectively leverage resources while maximizing social benefits and promoting social equity.

I am in a relatively early stage of my PhD study, so I know I still have a long way to go. But I will push forward by exploring more research opportunities and taking classes to both enhance my understanding of social issues and improve statistical skills so I can  better formulate my dissertation in the coming year. I feel inspired to further explore the cause of rising inequality and the role of public programs and regulations in improving economic opportunities. Research is by no means easy. Rather, it is a painstaking process which requires strong self-discipline, endless trials, and determination.  However, that is how I fell in love with the process. Not only do I feel an enthusiasm to discover the unknown and seek new knowledge, but I can also be a part in sharing that knowledge with communities to help shape a better future.

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