As of the summer of 2017, the PhD Excellence Initiative, with generous support from the Sloan Foundation, is pleased to officially welcome its fourth research fellow, Olufemi Olaleye, a U.S. citizen of Nigerian heritage. Femi joins the Initiative following his graduation from New York University in May 2017 with a B.A. in Economics and Mathematics. As an undergraduate, Femi was awarded the Maurice Feinberg Scholarship (a full-tuition scholarship offered by NYU through the generosity of the Feinberg family) and became a Presidential Honors Scholar. Femi has also accumulated valuable experience outside of academia, working in Washington D.C. as a research assistant at the Council of Economic Advisers at the White House, and at the International Development and Governance branch of the Urban Institute. He is a member of the Institute for Responsible Citizenship, having been selected as one of less than a dozen from a nationwide pool of hundreds of applicants to participate in the Institute’s two-summer leadership program.

Q & A with Olufemi Olaleye

Disadvantage—making sense of it, and of the world—drove me toward the study of economics. As I grew up in different parts of the developed and developing world, I became very aware of what I, and those around me, did and did not have. Schooling in certain cities was better than it was in others. Infrastructure in certain countries was maintained to a higher degree than it was in others. Wealth within certain racial groups was more rare than it was in others. These observations gave me a deep desire to understand why and how our varied world exists as it does today. I believe that economics, as a measured amalgam of history, philosophy, and mathematics, provides the sharpest tools and the most rigorous framework for that understanding.
I am happy to be a fellow of the PhD Excellence Initiative, because I have the opportunity to do the research I love now, and, with the education and environment provided by the program, to equip myself to conduct more innovative and important research later. As an aspiring development economist, the fact that this program allows its participants to work closely and consistently with Dr. Henry and other professors on a wide range of development-related research questions is undeniably appealing. Moreover, as a student interested in honing my academic and research skills before pursuing a PhD, the seminars and graduate-level coursework provided by the Initiative will prepare me for the type of work that awaits in a doctoral program and beyond.
Check back in coming weeks, as we reveal more of Femi’s responses to the Initiative’s “self-interview” Q&A. You’ll discover his recipe for success, his view on economists who “get it right,” and we’ll add Femi’s titles to a growing list of books that Initiative fellows would happily find if stranded on a deserted island.


About the Ph.D. Excellence Initiative

In 2014, the Ph.D. Excellence Initiative welcomed its first participants under the generous funding of the Sloan Foundation. In July 2014, the first Ph.D. Excellence Summer Workshop united the wider Peer Network and provided a forum for sharing research, methodology, and support. Interested in Applying to the Initiative? Go to Application Info (PDF). For updates, follow @PeterBlairHenry and #PhDExcellence