Connecting economics and the world


As our world becomes more interrelated, it is vital for students to visit other nations and experience different cultures. UNI provided that experience to five senior economics majors in May during its bilateral exchange program with the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow.

During their seven-day visit, the students, who were accompanied by two professors in the College of Business Administration, presented their research projects to Plekhanov students and faculty. Their projects were initially prepared for Directed Research, which is the final course the students took before they graduated.

The research of Josh Lastine, economics ’11, took an empirical look at movie theater admissions and how fluctuations in the U.S. economy affect attendance. Since his return home, Lastine has continued his research with UNI economics professor Bryce Kanago in hopes of having his findings published in an academic journal.

russian architecture and group

“Traveling to Russia helped broaden my worldview of other cultures – not so much in cultural differences, but in similarities between cultures,” said Lastine, whose trip to Russia was his first journey abroad. 

“Students in Russia are similar to students at UNI. We all enjoy spending time with friends, we like the latest fads and fashions, and we equally dread finals week. We’re also similar in our thirst for higher education; otherwise, we wouldn’t be in college. Our cultural differences seem unimportant when we’re reminded that we’re all students of this world, regardless of nationality.”

In addition to presenting their research, the UNI delegation toured the Plekhanov campus, sat in on classes, explored Moscow and attended cultural events, such as a performance of “Romeo and Juliet” by the Russian Ballet, to experience life in Europe’s largest city.

The research project of Adam O’Leary, economics ’11, focused on The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and whether the costs of Corporate America implementing the act outweighed the economic benefits.

“Even though all five of us economics students conducted research on American topics, the Russian students recognized and were knowledgeable on all of our topics,” he said. “Therefore, it made me realize how interconnected the world is becoming.

“If I could make one recommendation to future students, I would encourage them to study abroad in order to grow personally, professionally and intellectually,” O’Leary continued. “Studying abroad forces you to get out of your comfort zone, which is a valuable characteristic that future employers will appreciate.”

The UNI students were accompanied by management professor and department head Mary Connerley and economics professor Ken Brown. Brown is also the Lawrence M. Jepson Professor of International Economics, a position that was established by the College of Business Administration to help build UNI’s international business and economics curriculum and to support student efforts to enhance their education through study abroad and international experiences.

“UNI students primarily come from the state of Iowa, so the bilateral exchange gives them international exposure to an international city,” said Brown. “They also get to interact with faculty at another university, visit classes at another university and they make lasting friendships with the students they meet.”

The “bilateral” part of the exchange program comes into play when five students and one faculty member from Plekhanov come to the U.S. for 10 days in April. While on campus, these international guests stay in the residence halls, eat on campus, attend classes and present their research to economics faculty and students. This gives UNI students and faculty who didn’t travel abroad the opportunity to interact with the group from Russia and learn what it’s like to conduct business in that country. 

“Within the college, we preach that our students are entering a global environment. It’s important that we give them an idea of what that means,” said Brown.

            Learn more about the study abroad program with the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics or contact Brown at