The Dickinsonian

New Econ Major Expands Visa Options

Jules Struck ’19, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Dickinson’s economics department’s newest major offers students an entry into the burgeoning quantitative economics field and international students an additional 17-month visa extension after graduation.

The quantitative economics major is qualified as STEM-eligible by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) website, unlike the standard economics major offered by Dickinson. The vast majority of international students at Dickinson are studying in the U.S. under an F-1 student visa, said Luis Fernando Apolinário Johnson, international student and scholar services coordinator and advisor. All F-1 visa-holders are eligible for an Optional Practical Training one-year extension after graduation. However, STEM-classified majors are eligible to extend that period by 17 months, according to the USCIS website.

“There’s clearly a demand for this,” said Anthony Underwood, assistant professor of economics, who noted the heavy turnout of interested students to an information session held on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Over 70 students representing all class years filled Stern Great Room. 

Assistant Professor of Economics Emily Marshall said in the spring of last year an international student brought to the attention of the department the difficulty international students face in obtaining visas after college. After looking into the field, Marshall said she noticed quantitative economics had been a trend “for quite some time,” and considering that and the benefits to international students, “it kind of just took off.” 

“More and more, jobs people are doing synthesize concepts of econ and math,” said Lecturer in Economics Tricia Hawks. The new major “just gives more opportunity, more flexibility,” she said.

Several students are already taking advantage of that opportunity. As of print time, 10 students have declared quantitative economics as their major, with eight more outstanding and approximately nine students indicating they will likely declare, according to economics Department Coordinator Tammy Evelhoch. 

Some 25 percent of Dickinson’s 145 economics majors are international, though they make up only 13 percent of the student body, said Marshall. 

Soban Ali ’21, an international student from Pakistan, was one of the first voices to advocate a STEM-eligible economics major. “I have to think about what to do after school,” he said. Before quantitative economics was added, Ali had considered picking up a major in environmental science to be eligible for the STEM visa extension. “I wanted to be economics and not be pressured by any other thing,” he said.

Adam Huang ’19, an international student from China, said he “is definitely going to change” from economics to quantitative economics. Huang said it could give him the option of waiting a little longer after graduation before going to graduate school.

Similarly, “I think the major’s a useful major for international students in particular… other than that, a numbers-based major is something we always really needed,” said Aboody Rumman ’20, an international student from Pakistan. 

Ariel Li ’19 is an international student from China. She said she will be double-majoring in quantitative economics and international studies. “Especially for international students, it gives us more choices,” she said. 

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New Econ Major Expands Visa Options