Navigating a course in economics

Efficiency and Equity

Kathleen McQueeney ’08 navigates her course in economics

Kathleen McQueeney
Kathleen McQueeney

As a first-year at New College of Florida, Kathleen McQueeney took an economics course at a fortuitous moment. It was 2008, and about a month into the course, the country was rocked by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

“Every class we’d talk about what was going on and why this was happening,” she says. “Because it was a complicated situation. It was a really opportunistic time to be taking an economics course, and that’s really what drove my interest after that.”

Four years later, McQueeney graduated with a B.A. in economics. And in May, she got married and received her doctorate in economics from Brandeis University. She says she never would have achieved the latter if it wasn’t for New College.

“I had really close faculty relationships there, and I really felt like people valued my intellectual progression and my success,” she says. “It’s not totally usual for people to go straight into a Ph.D. program after undergrad, but New College is a place where that’s possible. I had good faculty recommendations because they actually knew who I was. That definitely helped me.”

New College gave her a strong academic foundation that prepared her for the rigorous course work of a Ph.D. program. When she started thinking about graduate school while still at New College, faculty members recommended she take math classes to augment her economics work. “And they were right about that,” she laughs.

She also points to her New College senior thesis as something that helped her jump right into pursuing the Ph.D. “I think being able to do that was just huge in preparing me for graduate school,” she says. Connections made at New College proved incredibly valuable in advancing McQueeney’s studies and career.

She was one of several students the college introduced to David Kotok, who runs the Sarasota money-management firm Cumberland Investments. He sponsored an opportunity for her to attend a Global Interdependence Center conference in Sweden, where she met a Brandeis faculty member who encouraged her to apply to its Ph.D. program.

“That made a huge difference,” she says. “I don’t know if I would have known that Brandeis has a Ph.D. program. It’s a small program, so it’s not totally dissimilar from New College in that sense.”

In August, McQueeney started a job as a senior economist on the Applied Research Methods team of the U.S. Government Accountability Office. While she also interviewed for academic and industry positions, she’s not surprised she ended up in the policy realm, an area that’s always interested her. And she’s prepared for a role in what’s still a male-dominated field, thanks to the strong female mentors she had at Brandeis.

While McQueeney is just starting out in her career, she’s already made it a habit to support New College financially, albeit at a smaller level that she hopes will grow down the road.

“I feel like New College gave me my future in a way I really never expected,” she says. “I’m 27 and I have my Ph.D. now and I can go out and do whatever I want to do. I want other students to have the same opportunities I’ve had. I have a very soft spot in my heart for New College, especially now that I’m older and have seen all different types of schools that people have gone to. It’s pretty unique.”