Happy New Year from all of us at the CSFE community, we hope you had a happy and safe holiday season. Earlier in 2020, we began our spotlight series on our 2020-21 Faculty Affiliates, and today we would like to highlight Dr. Inhyuck “Steve” Ha. Steve is a Professor of Economics at WCU and has been the director of the MBA program in the College of Business, with research interests in the effects of COVID-19 policy on the economy and the effects of affirmative action programs at the state and national level.

Currently, one of his research areas is focused on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic policies in the WCU community. Working with CSFE Director, Edward Lopez, and CSFE Associate Director, Sean Mulholland, Steve is specifically developing a statistical model to estimate the economic and fiscal impact of the change in instructional modules at WCU caused by COVID-19 on the community. With a survey already sent out to WCU students, the goal was to find how many stayed home or off-campus, what changes were happening with their spending habits, etc., and then they put that data into a model to show how our local economy was affected.

“We were able to do some in-depth research in that area. So hopefully, we can continue to work on this and extend our research to reach more local businesses and people out there. If we have more resources, then that is more research,” said Steve.

Steve went on to explain how the post-COVID era of society will be different, but just how different is what we are yet to learn, “So I think our approach is to figure out what’s been done. We have a lot of data at the national level, state level, about positive cases and deaths. However, I think it should be done locally, as well. So that’s why we were interested in this research,” said Steve.

When Steve began this line of research, he went to WCU administration curious if there had been any other research done into if students want to take classes online or any other research that might mimic his own, but there wasn’t. The hopeful outcome of his research is to not only answer this question but also how each of WCU’s decisions with their COVID-19 policies has affected students, our local economy, and other rural areas. Steve doesn’t believe this research is a crystal ball into the future, “But if we figure out what has happened and the businesses perspective, then, hopefully, we have a better understanding about some kind of structural change in our economy,” Steve explained.

“These will not necessarily be a policy decision [the outcomes of his research] at the university level, the state level, or the universal level. Still, we should be data-driven,” Steve said, continuing, “That is one of the contributions we could possibly make.”

Steve completed his master’s at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then went to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for a Ph.D. in Applied Economics. He has worked not only in the academic sphere but also has had the opportunity for practical research, working with local businesses, practitioners, and state government officials in a variety of ways. “Then, I found this opportunity at WCU, it has given me opportunities to do some more kinds of practical research, estimating economic impact to the local community, regional economy and state economy,” said Steve.

We are so excited to continue to work alongside Steve with his research, and we look forward to following along with all his upcoming research. In the future, Steve would like to continue this current path of research while also expanding his scope in COVID-19 related policies.

Thank you, Dr. Inhyuck “Steve” Ha for being a part of the CSFE community.