Paving the Way for the Minnesota Center for Diversity in Economics

The Minnesota Center for Diversity in Economics (MCDE) is one of the newest additions to St. Kate’s. The center is an extension of the Economics and Political Science Department. The main coordinator for the center initiatives is recent St. Kate’s graduate Libby Kula ’19. Funding for her position was awarded by the Strengthening Institutions and Programs (SIP) grant. This grant is given to universities with a strong aptitude for developing career readiness and financial education for students. Kula says the center hopes to bring economics out of the classroom and into every student’s life at the University, increasing everyone’s economic aptitude.

Kula's official position is program coordinator for the MCDE. Responsibilities of her role include planning various programs and collaborating with St. Kate’s Money Mentoring program to forge a strong partnership. While Money Mentoring coordinates many different workshops and tools for repaying loans, doing taxes, and more, the MCDE hopes to educate the community about the significance of collective student debt, wealth gaps, and income inequality. Kula hopes to help students learn about and become interested in the social justice side of financial markets and economics. She emphasizes the key role of education in the search for social justice.

Further down the road, the Minnesota Center for Diversity in Economics hopes to start intervening earlier in the education framework. This includes working with students and teachers in K-12, establishing a mentorship program and partnership with primary schools, and eventually developing more intersectional and intentional economics curriculum. Kula stresses the problematic make-up of the economics field currently in that women and people of color are underrepresented in the field. These gaps have remained stagnant for a long period of time.

Kula says, “We need to increase representation of women and people of color in every stage of the economics pipeline and set roots earlier in curriculum.”

She mentions that recent research out of Swarthmore College (Bayer, Bhanot, and Lozano, 2018) shows that increased access to information and nudges can make a big difference in attracting and retaining women to the field of economics. With increased representation, there are possibilities for more inclusive policy and starting to close long-held job segregation rates and wage gaps within the field, ultimately promoting equity for all genders and races.

Students can learn more about the work of the MCDE and stop by Kula's weekly tabling events in CdC.