November 28, 2018

Alumni Spotlight: Rosemarie Fike

“Look, you need to have a little humility as an economist. The world is a complicated place, and we understand a lot less than we think we do.”

As an undergraduate studying finance, investment management, and economics, Dr. Rosemarie Fike originally planned to work as an asset manager. She applied to George Mason University and the Mercatus MA Fellowship on the recommendation of an undergraduate professor, despite little prior experience with public choice economics. “I did not know who Hayek was. I did not know about knowledge problems, or spontaneous order,” she says. “But once I got here, I kind of fell in love with ideas and I wanted to keep going.”

"Once I got here, I fell in love with the ideas and I wanted to keep going."

As an MA Fellow, she researched regulatory studies alongside Jerry Ellig, gained hands-on experience with writing papers for publication, and picked up the contagious enthusiasm of scholars like Peter Boettke and Virgil Storr. Her favorite experience as an MA Fellow, though, was attending a manuscript conference for Deirdre McCloskey, where she also got to meet Nobel Laureate Douglass North and other scholars. “I was just kind of in awe of being in the same room with these people and hearing them help another scholar improve their book, and then getting the opportunity to go to dinner with them. I still talk to my students about having dinner with Doug North because that was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”

Initially, Rosie thought she wanted to work in policy after completing her master’s degree. But after attending a Mercatus Capitol Hill Campus event, she realized that she wanted to “change the conversation at a different level.” Her Mercatus mentors and PhD Fellows noticed her itch for generating research questions and her passion for economic ideas, and encouraged her to continue her studies. So, she ultimately decided to pursue her PhD in economics at Florida State University.

During the first few years of her PhD program, though, Rosie found that very few of her classmates shared her interest in the Austrian, Virginia, and Bloomington schools of political economy. The Mercatus Adam Smith Fellowship acted as a “life raft” of sorts, providing her with the opportunity to talk with students from different universities who were interested in the same ideas. The Adam Smith Fellowship’s interdisciplinary nature allows for “interesting conversations outside of your discipline that could be very useful for research,” Rosie says, adding, “I still keep in touch with quite a number of those students.”

The interdisciplinary nature allows for "interesting conversations outside of your discipline that could be very useful for research."

When it came time to search for jobs, Rosie’s knowledge of these ideas in political economy set her apart from other economics doctoral candidates. Texas Christian University’s (TCU) faculty was looking for someone to teach a class on contending perspectives in economics, and Rosie’s background in Austrian economics and public choice caught their attention. Her exposure to Austrian economics and public choice in the MA Fellowship and Adam Smith Fellowship programs “really prepared me for teaching the classes that I teach,” she says. Her work at TCU consists of not only teaching that course on contending perspectives, but also advising undergraduates on their thesis work and running the undergraduate economics club.

As a member of TCU’s diverse economics department, which contains post-Keynesians, traditional economists, and members of the new school, Rosie frequently makes use of the interdisciplinary dialogue she practiced as an Adam Smith Fellow. “In order to have discussions with people outside of your framework, you have to know a lot about other frameworks, too. People in Mercatus programs are always encouraged to read broadly, and look at a lot of different schools of thought, so that’s stuck with me.”

Along with working as an instructor at TCU, Rosie continues to pursue research of consequence. Rosie’s Hayekian humility manifests itself in her reluctance to let the data speak without a theory-driven interpretation. “That’s something that was emphasized at Mercatus, and at Mason in general. You can’t just go sifting through data looking for patterns; you need theory to guide what you're doing.”

"It allows me to explain a lot about the world that I wasn't able to explain before."

Rosie points to public choice and institutional economics as key in shaping how she approaches her work. “After learning about how property rights and rule of law are absolutely essential for a country's development, it's hard to think about anything other than institutions,” she says. As for public choice, Rosie calls it an “eye-opener:” “It allows me to explain a lot about the world that I wasn't able to explain before.” She especially enjoys Tullock’s writing on the subject, saying, “I don't know how somebody can make me laugh when I'm reading about bureaucracy, but he manages to be humorous and interesting while writing about something that most people would find very dry.” 

Rosie credits Mercatus with inspiring the love of ideas that brought her to her current work. “It’s an atmosphere that you don’t get at other places,” she says. “There's an energy at Mercatus where people are really excited, and every time I come here, I go back to where I work and I'm re-invigorated and inspired to work on new stuff.”

"It's an atmosphere that you don't get at other places."

For Rosie, that includes ongoing research on the impact of economic institutions on the lives and status of women through academic publications, and policy publications for the Fraser Institute on the Economic Freedom of the World project. Most recently, her work on the Economic Freedom of the World report has been instrumental in adjusting the index to account for gender disparity in order to more accurately measure economic freedom. She’s also interested in researching the self-governing institutions of the Amish, a topic that has interested her since her childhood in Pennsylvania.

From her introduction to political economy as an MA Fellow to her current work in teaching and conducting research within an institutional framework, Rosie’s journey is marked by a love for the ideas that she engaged with as an MA and Adam Smith Fellow. “It took me a while to figure out what questions I was excited about,” she says. “But once you figure out what questions you're excited about, it doesn't seem so much like work.”

 

For more information on the MA Fellowship and Adam Smith 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.