September 20, 2019

Alumni Spotlight: Tim O'Shea

  • Tim O'Shea


“At the end of the day, it’s a commitment by you to further your own economic education.”

In May, Timothy O’Shea (’19) graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Government and International Politics, with a concentration in International Politics, and minors in Economics and Data Analysis. During his four years at Mason, he acted as President of the Inter-Fraternity Council, led forty Mason students to Richmond to lobby on behalf of the university’s legislative priorities, and held several internships and research assistantships. And for three of those four years, Tim spent six nights every semester discussing key ideas in political economy as a Mercatus Joseph Schumpeter Fellow.

Tim’s introduction to economics came through his high school debate team, where he read several economics studies, including one on cigarette taxes by Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center. Once at Mason, he decided to pursue a minor in economics because of the university’s “incredible program,” saying, “It seemed like it would be silly not to take advantage of that.” When he entered the program, he understood that economics was about more than calculating GDP, but his classes at Mason confirmed the idea that economics “was more about choices…I learned pretty quickly just how universal some of these lessons were.”

As a freshman, Tim read about the Mercatus Joseph Schumpeter Fellowship in the Honors College newsletter. From the beginning, he was struck by the multidisciplinary nature of the fellowship: “I always thought it was interesting, because it was kind of like a way for people from a lot of different academic disciplines to meet in the middle.” Attracted by the fellowship’s accessibility for non-economics majors and the opportunity to engage with Hayek Program scholars, he applied and began participating during the first semester of his sophomore year.

A Different Perspective

Over the next three years, Tim and the other Schumpeter Fellows discussed topics ranging from disaster recovery to foreign policy to Adam Smith’s moral philosophy. Tim credits the fellowship with allowing him to build a “base of knowledge” which contributed to his “ability to analyze things differently” in his classes. “The fellowship has given me an advantage in that, especially in government classes…I definitely feel like I look at things in a different way.”

Tim carried that different perspective into his senior thesis, which analyzed the interaction between national policy change and local-level implementation of immigration policy. Hayek Program scholar Christopher Coyne’s books After War and Tyranny Comes Home, both of which he read as a Schumpeter Fellow, were especially impactful in shaping his approach to research. “Not a lot of people talk about what federal policy change actually means in implementation,” he says. “A lot of lessons on how [policy] works comes from public choice and looking at the incentives that agents face…and that comes from a lot of the stuff we learned about in the Schumpeter Fellowship. And that really influenced my choice in research in a lot of ways.”

Advice for Students

Tim’s advice to future Schumpeter fellows? First, come ready to discuss. “Part of healthy debate is being opposed when you say something that people disagree with, so don’t feel attacked if people go after something you say, because that’s the purpose of these discussions.”

Second, remember that you get out of the fellowship what you put into it. “At the end of the day, it’s a commitment by you to further your own economic education. It is a commitment by you to really step up for yourself and learn more for the sake of learning more, and only you can really decide how much you get out of that.”

What’s Next?

In August, Tim began his first year of law school at Georgetown University. He wanted to go to law school since the summer after his sophomore year, when he interned at an immigration law firm. After law school, Tim says, “My plan as of now is to go into litigation, but I have a lot of things that I’m passionate about, so we’ll see where I land.”

In law school and beyond, Tim anticipates applying the ideas he discussed as a Schumpeter Fellow to a variety of questions. Who benefits from current law and proposed policies? Who will be hurt? What loopholes exist, and who will be able to locate and exploit them? “A lot of the things that we talk about in the Schumpeter Fellowship is how people operate within the systems that they’re given,” he says. “Those questions are definitely going to be more [impressed] in my mind because I’ve had this kind of three-year tour of what can happen in good situations and bad.”

For more information on the Mercatus Joseph Schumpeter Fellowship and all of the other Mercatus Fellowships offered to students at George Mason University as well as other universities around the world, visit