May 16 2007
Alan Benson, BS '07, Presents in Turkey
Izmir University of Economics in Turkey announced a Call for Papers, giving undergraduates an opportunity to present at a student conference there in April 2007, all expenses paid. ILR's Alan Benson submitted a winning paper and here recounts some of his experience. Alan just earned the Irving M. Ives Senior Award and was announced a Seidman Prize recipient. He graduates with honors this month and plans to enter a Ph.D. program at M.I.T. in the fall.
After finding out about the conference from ILR International Programs, I submitted an abstract and prospectus from my honors thesis to the conference organizers. After it was accepted, I hammered out my thesis into a working paper; I was the only international undergraduate to present, and in the minority of participants receiving full financial coverage.
Flying into Turkey Thursday April 12th, I had already taken in Izmir's renown beauty from the airplane. The city, sandwiched between the verdant mountains and bright blue bay and Aegean sea, is famous for its European disposition and Greek influences. That night, we had a cocktail reception at the Izmir University of Economics, and some of the conference participants and I went to a restaurant and pub, and walked along Izmir's beautiful pietas surrounding the bay.
That Friday was reserved for sun-up to sun-down conference presentations. The organizers had placed me on the plenary session--the one at which the entire conference convened, before breaking down into series of four simultaneous panels for the rest of the day. The panel's theme was "State Intermediation and Social Welfare," and my co-panelists were Erica Chenoweth (a research fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard), Tahir Ozturk (a predoctoral fellow at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, in Spain), and Onur Olgun (a grad student at the Izmir University of Economics). My presentation and Q&A session lasted about thirty minutes, and was titled "A Game Theoretic Approach to Sustaining Social Dialogue."
On Saturday, we traveled to Sirince, a beautiful and quaint village famous for its wines, olives, and crafts. Founded by Greeks in the 5th century AD, the village used to be named "Cirkince," the Turkish word for "ugly." According to folklore, it was so named to dissuade migrants from nearby villages. In 1924 the name was changed from "Cirkince" to "Sirince," meaning "cute," which, in my observations, was much more appropriate! I posted some photos from Sirince online. We also traveled to the ruins of Ephesus, one of the great ancient cities, and remarkably well-preserved. More information is available here.
On Sunday, three PhD students and I (two from the Netherlands and one from Italy), visited Izmir's bustling bazaar. To contrast Friday's conference, and in particular my musings about bargaining theory, here we had three economics PhD students and myself thrown right into haggling at the gritty and intensely competitive marketplace. Ironically, we each probably came out having spent more money than we had intended!
My trip to Turkey was so enlightening, and in so many ways. Not only did the conference give me the opportunity to learn new economic theory and methodology, but it gave me a chance to live it at a bazaar, and to meet doctoral students personally at Ephesus and Sirince. I also came to appreciate the opportunities I've had so far-- I received so many generous comments about my presentation from fellow participants, who noted how well-trained and well-prepared I had carried myself. I credit this preparation to the opportunities presented to me by ILR-- by sophomore year, I had worked on a conference with Professor Lance Compa, and had frequented ILR's public panel discussions and presentations. So, while it was somewhat precocious of me to be presenting as an undergraduate, I was comfortable enough presenting my research with confidence, while acknowledging its shortcomings and being receptive to suggestions!
So that was my trip in a nutshell--a great experience!