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Hannah Spirrison ′10

Major: Economics
Hometown: Starkville, MS
A bit of this, a bit of that: Hannah really does a bit of everything. In addition to her studies, she works as a Rhodes Student Associate in Career Services, performs with the Contents Under Pressure (CUP) improv group, tutors fellow students and walks dogs for the Humane Society.

Why did you decide to attend Rhodes?
When I was in high school, my dad and I scoured book after book, trying to find the right college. The number one thing I wanted was a school that was a great fit for me, rather than going somewhere where I’d feel pressured to fit the school. Once the dust settled and the searching came to a close, Rhodes fit the bill perfectly. I love the big-city location, small class sizes and sense of community here—and it’s all only a few hours’ drive from home.

How did you decide on Economics for your major?
To be honest, I didn’t have the slightest idea what I wanted to major in when I started college. During my first year, I did a lot of shopping around. I tried out everything from Theatre to English to Religious Studies, but during my sophomore year, I took my first Economics class and everything finally clicked. The modes of thinking, the methods of analysis—it just all seemed to come together in a way that no other class had. For me, the most enjoyable aspect is investigating social problems using math to arrive at reliable conclusions. For example, look at the financial success of individuals who went to college versus those who didn’t. It’s very easy to dismiss a college graduate’s success on the fact that they earned a degree, but if you approach the issue through the lens of economics, it becomes apparent that people who decide to attend college may possess characteristics and skills that make them likely to succeed regardless of their college degree. Knowing how to dissect an argument in that manner was really appealing to me, so Economics just seemed like the obvious choice.

During your sophomore year, you won the Siedman Award in Economics for outstanding academic achievement. What was that experience like?
Overwhelming, to say the least! Since I was a latecomer to the discipline, I never dreamed that I would be nominated for that award. But in all honesty, I owe my academic success to Professor Sarah Estelle. She is my adviser and mentor, and she pushed me to achieve more than I ever thought possible. She is the epitome of the Rhodes professor: always available, always helpful and extremely devoted to her field. Quite frankly, she made me the economist I am today.

Wow! It sounds like you’ve developed such a zeal for your discipline. How has that translated into your extracurricular activities?
Last year, I had an internship with FedEx where I worked side by side with Ph.D. economists, so it was really great to see everything I learned in the classroom applied to real-world situations. For example, I helped them research environmental policies, such as cap and trade, in order to compile a report for one of their national publications. I had learned about cap and trade in some of my classes, but to actually investigate it in a professional environment and put it into something that’s going out to be read by heads of a national corporation was absolutely amazing. That experience taught me that what you learn can and will actually be translated into practice.

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