It is an exciting opportunity to become chair of the Department of Economics.  The department has a long and impressive history, with many distinguished economists having served as chair.  I am proud to follow a recent group of outstanding department chairs who have provided wise and capable leadership during a period in which we hired many outstanding faculty and made important improvements to our already excellent undergraduate and graduate teaching programs. 

Joel Slemrod has been a great department chair, widely admired by faculty, students and staff.  When I met with faculty and staff to consider taking over as chair, one of the first comments I heard was that “Joel will be a tough act to follow.”  While it is intimidating to follow in Joel’s large footsteps, I take over knowing that he is leaving the department in great shape.  I am more excited about being a member of Michigan’s economics department than I have ever been since I arrived as an assistant professor in 1983.  We have outstanding faculty at all ranks, a Ph.D. program with an impressive placement record, and a large and thriving undergraduate program.  Support from the university and our generous donors have given us resources to do things we have never been able to do before. 

I recently returned from a wonderful sabbatical in South Africa, where I have been doing research on education, poverty, and employment for almost 20 years.  Spending time away from Michigan always gives me a fresh perspective on the excellent academic environment of the University of Michigan and the unique strengths of our economics department.   

On behalf of everyone in the department I want to thank Joel for the great work he did as chair, and wish him the best as he takes a much deserved leave.  I look forward to working with faculty, staff, students, and alumni to build on the work of Joel and his predecessors and continue the great tradition of economics at Michigan.