Making the Most of Econ Day: An Interview with Dr. Bob Elder

by Nicole Hou’20

Photo by Mason Mu’20

On Friday, February 16th, a group of Economics students and professors ventured from Beloit’s campus to downtown Chicago for the 32nd annual “Econ Day.” The day is an invaluable opportunity for junior and senior economics majors to tour a thriving business, meet and network with alumni, as well as to get a glimpse of how a liberal arts degree in economics can be put into practice in the “real world.” Dr. Bob Elder, current chair of the department and one of Econ Day’s attendees, shares a bit more below about what Econ Day is like and why it’s a unique experience that Beloit students should take advantage of while they’re here. 


BOB: This year’s Econ Day is the 32nd annual event. The very first one was held in 1987. Since then, all of the professors from the Department of Economics have been taking students on a bus down to Chicago—usually, it’s the third Friday in February. The students who participate in Econ Day have to declare a major in Economics, in order to be able to attend.

During the morning part of Econ Day, students and faculty visit a business in the city of Chicago; this year, we went to Studio Gang, which is the architecture firm responsible for designing the Powerhouse. In the past, we’ve gone to the Chicago Board of Trade, the Mercantile Exchange, Groupon world headquarters, as well as Boeing Aircraft. We might take a tour, and the people who work at these businesses might tell us how they operate and answer our questions. This event gives our Econ students exposure to a real-world working environment and helps them to envision how they can also put their liberal arts education into practice. 


BOB: We go to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business—specifically, we visit the Gleacher Center—and have lunch there. Alumni start showing up around lunch time, and then we have a few panel discussions. Usually there are two panels: an “older” panel given by alumni who graduated twenty years ago, and a younger panel given by alumni who graduated in the last five years. This year’s older panel talked about leadership, and it was appropriate since they are a very distinguished group. Some of the speakers included the head of global sales from the Clorox Company, the CEO of Ralph Lauren, and a senior vice president from a pharmaceutical firm. They all did a great job talking about the leadership they exemplify in their firms.

In the young alumni panel, they talked about how they got their first jobs and what they have been doing since graduation. Some went to graduate school, and some went directly into the workforce. The main point of the alumni panels is to demonstrate to our current students what is possible with an Economics degree. Those two panels go from 1 to 4 p.m., and afterwards, from 4 to 5:30 pm, is the time for networking.

During that time, our current students can mingle and network with alumni in a big reception room. Students are encouraged to bring their résumés, walk around and introduce themselves to alumni. Alumni might have opportunities in their firms like internships for juniors, and sometimes, full-time job openings for seniors. Therefore, it is a nice opportunity that other colleges don’t always make available to their students. We put our students in connection with our alumni and let this networking unfold. For alumni, it can be a nice way to give back to their alma mater and to reunite with old classmates and former professors.


BOB: On the bus ride to Chicago, we pass out a booklet that has descriptive information of all of the alumni who will be in attendance. Usually, there will be 45 students and at least 45 alumni in attendance, which allows for valuable one-on-one conversations. Students can look through the booklet ahead of time to better prepare; for example, they can learn the firm an alum works at, and whether there might be an opportunity for internships and full-time jobs. Then, by the time students are at the networking reception, they’ve already read about the alumnus before passing along their résumés.