We occasionally use this blog to catch up with our former students who are now on to great things. Today, we are “Catching up with Tyler Tarbet.”

Tyler is a 2018 graduate of Western Carolina University who majored in computer information systems and minored in economics. It was through his minor that he met CSFE Faculty Affiliate Angela Dills and Director Edward Lopez and began to explore this passion for economics by joining the North Carolina dashboard project. This year, Tyler graduated with a Master’s in quantitative economics from West Virginia University and is joining CSFE as a research assistant.

Let’s catch up with Tyler!

Q1: Let’s dive right in! Tell me a little bit more about your academic journey and how you got to where you are today?

I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina, and I went to a school called Charlotte Catholic high school. From there I went to Western Carolina University, that’s where I met Dr. Lopez. My major was computer information systems, throughout that we took a lot of business courses and one was microeconomics and that class really drew my interest. So I started to talk to some of the professors there and I decided to get my minor in econ because, at that time, that’s the only thing that they offered. I started my senior year working on the dashboard project that they did for North Carolina. That really solidified my strong interest in econ and research analysis. Right after school, I got a job back here in Charlotte as a business data analyst. Fast forward to May of 2020, I reached back out to Dr. Lopez and I said, “Hey, you know what, with a lot of schools doing things remotely right now, I wonder if you have any online opportunities that you’ve heard of.” He happened to hear of a program at West Virginia University, a first-time quantitative econ Master’s program. It was a one-year program from August of 2020 to August of this year.

Q2: Exciting! I’d love to hear more about your academic journey, the master’s program in quantitative econ, and how you got to where you are today?

As I started learning, because I took an econ class in high school, which was very surface level. But then at Western, you’re able to apply some of the knowledge and the learning actions in these economic classes. It allowed me to really cipher through what’s actually happening. From there, that’s what really made me want to tackle the idea of school choice because, throughout my life, I’ve always known how privileged and fortunate I was to have the opportunity for private education. Now that I have the tools and understanding, how can I start to answer questions about how do we make things better? How can I apply that to ideas around school choice? So I guess that would be the main thing, if there are things in life that you feel very passionate about, but you don’t really know where to start, take some of the ideas you’ve learned from classes, start to do some research on it and see what dots connect in a natural way. Just let it flow.

Q3: Exciting! So, I hear you are helping the Center out by being a research assistant? Tell me more about that.

When I graduated from Western, Dr. Lopez knew I had a strong background in computers, websites, and databases because of the work I did for their dashboard. So the summer after I graduated from Western, I was helping them [CSFE] rebuild the website. Dr. Lopez reached back out to me a couple of weeks ago saying that he wants to work on rebuilding his website, work on some of the center’s website, and at the same time he wants to have somebody help him with some research. It’s kind of an open-ended thing, one of the topics we want to look at is COVID and how did/does that impact everything?

Q4: Well, welcome back to the team! I’d love to hear some advice you have for people who are looking to pursue a master’s in econ?

Well, I think the first thing is to figure out, if you can, what you want to focus on because there are different versions of that. So,  you can get a master’s that is more theory-based, or this one is more quantitative-based. The first thing would be okay, what are you trying to get out of it? Are you trying to become an academic? Or are you someone who wants to go work at a big bank or are you trying to work in a policy institute? If you can veer one way or another, that will help you select a kind of program. And then from there, people who are really interested in policy, whether it’s for the private sector or public sector or even nonprofits, you know, doing that program at WVU, really lends itself to a lot of that opportunities because they have tremendous connections, tremendous resources.

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