Interview with Jane Olmstead-Rumsey - National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Winner

Jane Olmstead-Rumsey in Ecuador
May 21, 2015
Jane Olmstead-Rumsey, a 2013 graduate of the Elliott School, has recently been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She is one of two winners this year from GW - the other Sydney Morris, a recent graduate from Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. You can read more about Sydney here.
About the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship:
The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science and engineering.  The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in science and engineering.
Jane participated in the Elizabeth J. Somers Women’s Leadership Program, and in 2013, Jane was named the Distinguished Scholar in the Elliott School of International Affairs, graduating from the joint degree program in Economics and International Affairs. 
While at GW, Jane’s research experience started early, receiving the Eckles Prize for Freshman Research Excellence.  After her sophomore year and supported through the Provost/OVPR Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, Jane worked with Prof. James Foster on a project entitled, “Participation in Costa Rica's Payment for Ecosystem Services Program: The Challenge of Small Farmers.”  The following year as a Gamow Undergraduate Research Fellow, Jane worked with Prof. Paul Carillo, undertaking a project entitled, “The Effect of Female Executives on Firm-Level Gender Wage Gaps in Ecuador,” the research for which supported her senior thesis in economics.
Jane also complemented her undergraduate work outside the classroom, serving as a research fellow with GW's Institute for International Economic Policy. Now working as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve, Jane looks forward to the start of her doctoral studies in economics at Northwestern University in the fall.
We recently spoke with Jane to learn her thoughts on applying for and receiving this prestigious award.
How did you hear about the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and what inspired you to apply for it?
I first heard about the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship as an undergrad during some of the time I spent at the CUFR office, and was later encouraged to apply by economists at the Federal Reserve Board where I am a research assistant. I was excited to apply because not only is it a generous and prestigious award, but participants in the NSF GRFP also have opportunities to network and share ideas with top scholars in their own fields and in related scientific disciplines.
You worked on a lot of research as an undergraduate. What sorts of research projects did you work on and how did research add to your undergraduate experience?
In addition to working as a Research Fellow at the Elliott School's Institute for International Economic Policy, I worked on two independent research projects at GW. In 2011 I received a GW Sigelman Undergraduate Research Enhancement award and an Office of the Vice President for Research Undergraduate Fellowship to conduct research in Costa Rica on landowner participation in a national conservation program called the Payment for Ecosystem Services Program. The following summer I received a Gamow Fellowship to complete an internship at Ecuador's Internal Revenue Service and collect data on Ecuadorian firms' gender wage gaps. I used this data for my honors thesis in economics, which investigated the impact of female CEOs on gender wage gaps in Ecuador. These projects were the most rewarding experiences of my undergraduate career. I got to travel, improve my Spanish language skills, form connections with policymakers in Latin America, and explore issues I am passionate about. It was undertaking these challenging independent projects that convinced me to pursue graduate study in economics.
You graduated from GW in 2013 - what has been your experience with research since then?
Since I graduated in 2013, I have been working as a research assistant in the International Finance Division of the Federal Reserve Board. I help economists in my section with academic research and contribute to the Fed's economic forecasting process.
Ultimately what are hoping this NSF award will help you achieve?
I hope to use the NSF grant to study the costs and benefits of financial stability regulations in developing countries. Being an NSF fellow also affords me the opportunity to network with past, current, and future NSF fellows, and I hope it will facilitate my participation in the academic economics community more broadly. Depending on the course of my research, I may use some NSF funds to travel abroad to work with policymakers and economists in other countries on the topic of financial stability.