Six Students Travel to Atlanta for Inaugural Economic Think Tank Conference

Six Southeast Missouri State University students and a faculty member from the Harrison College of Business at Southeast Missouri State University joined 750 students from around the world at the Foundation for Economic Education Conference (FEEcon 2017) in Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-17.

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) is a libertarian economic think-tank dedicated to the “economic, ethical and legal principles of a free society.”  Students could choose from more than 70 sessions and 10 distinct learning tracks designed to provide real skills for professional success, combined with a solid grounding in economics, ethical and legal principles.

FEEcon was an inaugural conference organized by FEE. FEE was established in 1946 and hosted many small-scale seminars and lectures. The foundation has grown substantially over the past few years with FEEcon 2017 being their largest education event in history. FEEcon was open to anyone interested in entrepreneurship or exploring economic thinking. They encourage people who are intellectually curious, and willing to engage in the presentations and discussions to apply. The conference also provided professional networking opportunities and personal and professional development workshops for students and young professionals.

Southeast undergraduate students participating in the conference included Valeriia Andreieva, a financial economics major from Cherkassy, Ukraine; Ahmed Hasan, an accounting major from Dhaka, Bangladesh; Marion Mideva, a financial economics major from Nairobi, Kenya; Rachel Orf, a business economics major from St. Louis, Missouri; and Derek Shoemaker, a general studies major from Lebanon, Missouri.  Graduate student participant Brett Kazandjian of Annonay, France, who is pursuing a Master of Business Administration with an option in financial economics, also attended. Dr. Natallia Gray, Southeast assistant professor of economics, accompanied the students to the conference.

“The conference gave students the opportunity to explore economics outside of their classrooms and outside of the typical textbook,” said Gray. “FEEcon gave them the opportunity to become more familiar with libertarian perspective on various economic and policy issues, to interact with world-known entrepreneurs and to network with other students of business from around the world.”

Students engaged in learning tracks that included digital solutions; entrepreneurship and business success; personal and professional development; poverty alleviation, well-being and prosperity; urbanism, development and your neighborhood; policies for economic and social progress; economic essentials; political philosophy; science and technology; and creativity and commerce.

“Attending an educational event like this is hugely impactful for students’ ability to form their own viewpoints and to discuss those viewpoints with confidence,” Gray said.

Several successful entrepreneurs served as keynote presenters at the conference, including Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia; Kevin Harrington, founding member of ABC’s “Shark Tank”; and Patrick Byrne, an American entrepreneur, e-commerce pioneer and chief executive officer of Overstock.com. Students also had the opportunity to interact with these speakers at the social events at FEEcon.

All of the Southeast students received competitive scholarships from FEE to attend FEEcon. The conference was announced in early January and students applied by submitting a short essay and a statement of interest.

“The reason I decided to attend the conference was my passion about economics and willingness to explore it on a deeper level, so I could be better off professionally in the near future,” said Andreieva.  “Dr. Natallia Gray knew about my continuous searching for something and she encouraged me to apply for the FEE scholarship. I have gained so much new knowledge and some new skills that will serve me professionally and will help me stand out from the crowd in terms of my career.”

Additionally, Gray received an external teaching grant to help offset expenses for the trip.

“I have received a teaching and professional development grant for 2017-2018 from the Charles Koch’s Foundation (CKF) through which I was able to support the student travel to the FEEcon 2017 since the FEE scholarships alone would not cover the entire trip expense,” said Gray.  “I am grateful for all the support that I have received from the CKF and for all the administrative help that I have received from the Research and Grant Development Office at Southeast Missouri State University and Accounts Payable. Without CKF’s generous funding and SEMO staff support, this trip would not be possible.”

“I am also thankful for the encouragement and advice from my colleagues, department chair and the Harrison College of Business Dean,” she added.

Ahmed Hasan said he enjoyed a presentation on the “Story of Wikipedia” and thanked Gray for her efforts to make his attendance at the conference possible.

“FEEcon was a great opportunity to improve my knowledge about economics and help me with the research I am currently doing,” Kazandjian said, who said the conference also offered him the opportunity to learn more about economics. Entrepreneurship, and policy on national debt.

“It was something I knew very little about and learned a lot about the effect of national debt on the economy,” he said.

“The conference was really interesting,” he added. “Business students, especially economics and entrepreneurship, can greatly benefit from it” in the future.

Shoemaker said he attended sessions on how Civil War policy lead to the founding of the Federal Reserve, the 2007-2008 financial crisis and wasteful spending by the Department of Defense.

“This trip was a great success! Everyone had a good time and learned much,” said Shoemaker. “I expect this to only be the start for the University’s relationship with FEEcon.”

Photo Caption: Dr. Natallia Gray (center), Southeast assistant professor of economics, with Southeast students (from left to right) Valeriia Nadreieva, Ahmed Hasan, Brett Kazandjian, Derek Shoemaker Marion Mideva, and Rachel Orf at the Foundation for Economic Education Conference (FEEcon 2017) in Atlanta, Georgia.