(From left) Jan Crouter, Alexander (Alex) Zendeh, Denise Hazlett, Corinne (Cori) Andriola, George Osborne, Shanglun (Shaun) Wang, Peter Parcells, Margaret (Spring) Lonneker.
(From left) Jan Crouter, Alexander (Alex) Zendeh, Denise Hazlett, Corinne (Cori) Andriola, George Osborne, Shanglun (Sean) Wang, Peter Parcells, Margaret (Spring) Lonneker.

From the economic impact of immigration legislation in Arizona to the pros and cons of implementing a value-added federal tax, several Whitman students had the opportunity to spend the summer and early fall deeply examining specific economic policy issues as they participated in the GO Policy Paper Project (GOPPP). An extracurricular learning experience generously funded by Whitman overseer George Osborne ’66, the project resulted in four economic policy papers written by students under the guidance of three faculty mentors.

The GOPPP provided a stipend for both students and faculty advisors, fostering several months of collaborative examination and dissection of selected policies. Jan Crouter, associate professor of economics, Denise Hazlett, professor of economics and Pete Parcells, associate professor of economics served as the project’s three faculty advisers, enabling four students to explore current policy issues and write in-depth papers that asserted, critically analyzed and supported positions on their chosen topic.

Participating students and topics included Corinne (Cori) Andriola ’12, “The Case for Implementing A Value Added Tax in the United States;” Shanglun (Sean) Wang ’13, “The Case Against the Value-Added Tax;” Margaret (Spring) Lonneker ’11, “Arizona's Senate Bill 1070; A Good Immigration Policy?;” and Alexander (Alex) Zendeh ’12, “Energy Security and Ethanol Policy.”

“These aren’t traditional research papers. These are policy papers,” Parcells said. “Each paper represents a slightly different style of writing. Some are theoretical, others are more empirical, but each one investigates a specific economic issue and offers a well-supported position.”

The project began last May when each student chose a faculty adviser and asked them to review and approve a detailed proposal of their papers. Included in each proposal was a one-page description of their chosen policy issue, an annotated bibliography and a list of past and current economics courses.   

As founder, CEO and president of Kirkland, Wash.-based Osborne Construction, Osborne depends on expert analysis of the key economic indicators that affect his company. Hoping to impart the value of this type of interpretation and reporting on Whitman students, he reached out to the college’s economics faculty to propose the creation of a special project focused on developing and writing economic policy position papers. The result was a framework for the GOPPP, designed to hone the analytic thinking skills of participating students while offering practical experience with presenting complicated concepts in an easily comprehensible format.

“This is a powerful example of how a donor's gift can advance the academic experience of students and help shape their Whitman educations,” said John Bogley, vice president for development and college relations. “George Osborne is a longtime supporter of the college and his contributions of time and resources continue to enhance Whitman.”

Upon the successful completion of the GOPPP, the students gathered for an awards dinner in Reid Campus Center in early December. The event gave them the opportunity to present a brief overview of their papers to an audience that included the project’s namesake benefactor. Also in attendance at the event were Bogley, Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, provost and dean of faculty, and the three GOPPP faculty mentors, Crouter, Hazlett and Parcells.

“The GOPPP experience was immensely valuable to me. It allowed me to apply the concepts I learned in the classroom to a real-world issue,” said Wang, whose paper argued against the implementation of the value-added tax. “Not only did this project expose me to economic literature of policymaking, it also reaffirmed my belief in economics as an essential tool for understanding and improving the world.”

In addition to providing immeasurable experience examining practical economic issues, Parcells said that with some additional research, students could easily exhibit these papers at Whitman’s Undergraduate Conference. Held on campus each spring, the Undergraduate Conference is an opportunity for students to present original work produced in courses, senior theses, summer internships and study abroad. The 2011 conference is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12.

Click here for more information on the George Osborne Policy Paper Project.

—Joe Gurriere