MSU Women and Minorities in Economics host alumni panel

December 13, 2021 - Katie Nicpon

Caption: Stacy Dickert-Conlin, Ph.D., (left), and current MSU Economics students (left corner), listen to alumni panel members from left to right Kelly (Christopherson) Wilcox, Alejandra Loaiza Delgado and Margaret (Peg) Koenigs. 

Earlier this fall, Women and Minorities in Economics (WAMIE) , hosted three MSU alumni in a panel event that students could join in person or by Zoom. 

“Having this event to meet alumni and have other students be able to get advice from women who are very successful in their careers, it’s just an excellent opportunity to learn about what opportunities there are if you’re interested in economics,” said Carrie Nielsen, economics sophomore. 

The three panelists were Alejandra Loaiza Delgado, Margaret (Peg) Koenigs and Kelly (Chirstopherson) Wilcox. They represented the diverse spectrum of careers and opportunities econ majors could pursue - from public policy, to finance, to the tech world. Each answered questions about why they were originally interested in economics and how their economics degree and training prepared them for their careers. 

Alejandra Loaiza Delgado is a Senior Director at Ankura Consulting Group based in Los Angeles. Her work concentrates on the valuation of intellectual property (IP) and the determination of economic damages in IP litigation. She also serves as an executive board member with the MSU Women’s Leadership Institute

“Essentially what I do and the area where I work is patent infringement and that’s litigation. For instance, if Samsung sues Apple, they both need to hire an expert to put together an economic model of damages to present at trial to a jury,” Loaiza Delgado explained. “Through the econ degree, being able to be analytic, to problem-solve, to take a deep dive and to engage with the material and figure out what might be wrong in our analysis but also the opposing team’s econ model makes me a great asset to the company. Had I not pursued an econ degree, getting used to that analysis and problem-solving, I would not be able to perform my job as well as I do.”

Koenigs retired as the SVP and CFO for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and is the treasurer and board member for the Lake Area Free Clinic. 

“I was attracted to econ because it’s more analytical and it teaches you how to problem-solve and think,” Koenigs said. “And as I look back, it was a really important decision because when you get a job, it’s how you think and problem-solve and communicate that makes you successful.” 

Wilcox is a budget and policy analyst for Michigan's State Budget Office.

“Most people that I meet think economics is finance,” she said. “The thing I most value about my economics degree is that it helped change and frame the way I think about the world. Economics helped me think beyond the immediate problem at hand and how that would affect the big picture. That thinking and framing is going to bring value to where you’re working.” 

One takeaway from the panel involved agency for women: to pursue and be open to opportunities, engage mentors and develop resiliency in the face of challenges. 

“Be bold, make sure that you pursue your dreams. Make a step-by-step plan on how you’re going to achieve your goals and your dream,” Loaiza Delgado said. “You have to be constantly putting yourself out there. Be bold and ask for what you want.”

The panel was moderated by Stacy Dickert-Conlin, Ph.D., MSU Economics professor.

“Increasing diversity in economics is really essential,” she said. “30% of undergrad majors nationally are women, only about 12-15% are underrepresented minorities. There are studies that show that in academic settings, role models play an important part and I’m so excited we were able to have our alumni spend time with our students during Homecoming weekend.”      

WAMIE was started in 2018 by students in the Department of Economics. 

“It’s a club at MSU that seeks to promote diversity equity and inclusion in the econ major because only about ⅕ of people in the econ major are women as of right now,” said Nielsen, who serves on WAMIE’s eboard and helped to coordinate the event. “So we’re trying to make a space for women in the major to have opportunities to view other successful women who have majored in economics or have careers in econ-related fields.”

The club is also an important community during the pandemic. 

“I joined WAMIE my freshman year in the spring which meant I wasn’t a part of it for very long before the pandemic hit and we were all sent home,” Nielsen said. “So this semester, being back in person, getting to see new students be interested in the group and wanting to find a community within the econ major has been really great for me.”

For a chance to hear more from each of the MSU Economics alumni members, you can watch the full panel: