April 25, 2019

Alumni Spotlight: Kristine Johnson

Kristine and Mercatus

Kristine Johnson wasn’t necessarily thinking about going to graduate school for economics. During her time as an undergraduate at Towson University, she pursued a BA in international studies. “I had taken economics classes as part of my degree, but I didn't have any sort of relevant policy research experience,” Kristine says.

She found out about the Mercatus Center's MA Fellowship from her economics professor and Mercatus PhD alum, Howard Baetjer. Her passion for free market principles and firm grasp of the socialist calculation debate led Baetjer to know Kristine was the perfect fit for George Mason University and the MA Fellowship. “When I found out about this program -- the combination of the fellowship, the masters in economics, and the faculty whose work I was already familiar with -- I was really excited about the opportunity and to study under them,” she says.

Soon after the fellowship began, Stefanie Haeffele, the program director at the time and MA Fellowship alum, set up speaker events and introduced Kristine and other Fellows to scholars in the field. For Kristine, this led to the opportunity to co-author a paper on deposit insurance with Mercatus PhD Fellowship alum Thomas Hogan, who later became the chief economist of the Senate Banking Committee, as well as the ability to connect with other policy-minded students in the DC area.  

“My network, much of which is carried over from my time at Mercatus, is a huge part of what brings me joy in working in DC,” Kristine says.

Economic Principles and Research

“It’s been good for me professionally, but also personally”

Kristine didn’t always know what she wanted to research. “When I first came to Mercatus,” she says, “I was interested in a few different areas.” Through talking with Mercatus scholars and participating in research studies as a Fellow, however, she was able to sharpen her interest in financial markets to focus on the impact of regulatory policy on financial markets.

During her time at Mercatus, Kristine co-authored and contributed to book chapters, journal articles, op-eds, and regulatory comment letters, in addition to supporting scholars with data analysis and literature reviews. She credits her research background specifically focused on regulation, with setting her apart from her peers.

Kristine spent the last three years on Capitol Hill, where she served as a Professional Staff Member on the Senate Banking Committee. As a student of public choice having worked on Capitol Hill, she credits the MA Fellowship with giving her “a framework from which to view the policy-making world.”

Why the Mercatus MA Fellowship?

“For any person interested in getting into policy, the MA Fellowship is a no-brainer. Between the education, training in the fellowship, and faculty this is the number one place that you could come to,” says Kristine. “And the network you gain, the practical experience -- not to mention it’s a lot of fun.”

“It’s a no-brainer”

The advantages of the MA Fellowship don’t come without hard work. Asked to name a quote that has stuck with her over the years, Kristine half-jokingly says, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” She notes that, “Although the saying is cliché, it reminds you to think about opportunity costs, which are important in policymaking.”

Kristine applied this commonly-used phrase to her pursuit of a masters’ degree and a career in policy with gusto. It’s unsurprising, then, that she encourages future students to be “go-getters” in the program: “Seize opportunities and don’t shy away from new, difficult tasks. The program is largely what you make of it, so you can be the person who does the bare minimum or you can seize every opportunity that comes your way.”

What’s Next?

Looking to the future, Kristine says, “The sky’s the limit.” She has found that her research-based training in the MA Fellowship has opened doors on the Hill, in regulatory agencies, in non-profit think tanks, and even in academia.

“There is no shortage of options”

“For people looking to work in the policy space, I see no better alternative,” she comments.



For more information on the Mercatus MA Fellowship, and all of the other Mercatus Fellowships offered to graduate students at George Mason University as well as other universities around the world, visit students.mercatus.org.