This year saw the promotion of several of our staff. Erte Xiao has been promoted to Professor. Choon Wang has been promoted to Associate Professor. Matt Leister and Chengsi Wang have been promoted to Senior Lecturer. Congratulations to all.
Gary Magee and Erte Xiao were recently named 'field leaders' by The Australian in Economic History and Game Theory & Decision Sciences respectively. Gary was also named “field leader” across the whole discipline of History.
Monash Business School was also cited as the leading institution in development economics, sustainable development, economic policy and international business. Congratulations as well to all who contribute to those fields as well as to Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability and Centre for Global Business for institutional leadership in those areas. Michelle Greenwood from Department of Management and Chris Veld from Department of Banking and Finance were also recognised. A very good outcome for the Business School.
Imagine the boot of Italy on the map. In the “instep” between the toe and the heel lies Basilicata, a small mountainous region between two seas. Far from the mainstream touristy regions of Italy. This is where Associate Professor Giovanni Caggiano originates from.
“My region is not very well known but it had some fame recently when the New York Times ranked it third on a list of places people should go in 2018.” Unlikely as it may seem, he is not the only member of department from the region. Lecturer Claudio Labanca is also from Basilicata.
So does the region breed a lot of Economists?
“I don’t have data but if I think of the number of economists in comparison to the total population then I would say yes. Probably when you come from a region that is quite poor, when you go to university your parents push you towards a field where you can get a job. With Economics you can at least work in banking”, says Giovanni Caggiano.
He didn’t end up in banking but is specialised in applied macroeconomics “somewhere between empirical macroeconomics and time series econometrics”. He appreciates that the department is growing, even within his own field.
Joining Monash and moving to the other side of the world was not a very difficult step for him or his wife. He’s been coming to Melbourne for several years to see a friend and co-author who works at the University of Melbourne.
“It was a big move in geographical distance but not in terms of psychological distance. It’s familiar both for me and my wife. It was not as easy for her because she had to leave a job in Italy and didn’t have one here but we both love Melbourne. It’s very multicultural which we like and it has some exotic aspects of Australia. But there’s also a lot of what I used to have. It’s a walkable city and we don’t need a car. There are also cinemas, theatres, music concerts, libraries and book shops. And food is fantastic!”
Not a bad verdict coming from an Italian. In his free time he likes to go to the movies and music concerts and is an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction although he claims he is getting much slower with age.
“I spent months reading “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace which has been a revelation. Philip Roth I love. I was a Philip Roth fan for many years and read everything he wrote. I was sad when he passed away” he says.
Lately he has started consuming non-fiction through podcasts. “I get up early in the morning and walk to work listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History”, he’s just amazing.”
But neither banking nor macroeconomics was something Giovanni Caggiano wasted much time on growing up. For many years his dream was to become a professional soccer player.
“I wasn’t good enough. I played until I was eighteen but then I just didn’t have the exceptional skills needed. From my earliest memories I’ve supported the same team, AC Milan, so I guess that stays with you for life.”
One thing he misses here is watching the matches on the weekend, the time difference makes it too hard. Every Monday he wakes up and looks at the results.
“If AC Milan did badly over the weekend then the week won’t start in a good mood”, he says.
But on his mind more than football these days is his new born son Nicolò.
“If my colleagues who have more experience have any tips on how to get a good sleep at night then they should get in touch and let me know how to cope.”
Only a local Melburnian will know what it means to be the only St Kilda supporter in a school near Essendon where every class mate barracks for the AFL team with the same name.
“It was tough going to school in Essendon, they were an incredibly strong team at the time, and all the Essendon kids would remind me how bad the Saints were”, says Gordon Leslie. But the experience didn’t deter him from wanting to become what any Melbourne kid would want to be:
“A premiership winning centre half forward for St Kilda!”
This, in Melbourne’s north-west is where Gordon Leslie grew up. And this is where he has chosen to return – still a St Kilda fan. His parents live in the same house in Strathmore and he is not far away in Footscray.
His primary school teacher was also a part time zoo keeper at Melbourne zoo so for a few years this was another career dream of Gordon’s. Not until he realised he was good at maths and got to University did he realise that his future might be in Economics.
After his undergraduate degree at The University of Melbourne, and a stint at the Commonwealth Treasury, he applied to do a PhD in the US. He ended up doing a PhD in Industrial Organisation at Stanford University with a focus on empirical work that evaluates policy changes and market design issues in electricity markets.
“A lot of very good Australian academics go and get training overseas to return here so I thought that’s what I should do too.”
After five years in the US he and his wife have recently returned to Melbourne. It was always the plan to come back to Australia at some point, it just wasn’t clear when. But when the offers started coming in, the one from Monash was very good.
“We thought this is ultimately where we might want to end up so let’s take it whilst it’s there.”
And it seems to be very good timing for Australia to have someone specialised in energy markets return?
“Yes, it’s timely. Energy issues in Australia are really taking off and there seems to be a need for good economic analysis. And the department was very well placed to get me productive”, says Gordon.
He is already collaborating with colleagues in Engineering and IT at the Monash Energy Materials and Systems Institute (MEMSI) which conducts research to create new products in the energy sector. Along with Monash’s Net-Zero Initiative, they have committed to start up an on-campus, transactive micro-grid, a miniature electricity market. There are many technical challenges but also some economic and policy challenges which Gordon would like to focus on -- like whether it is feasible to administer and organise a market that has building managers on campus responding to higher or lower wholesale costs or prices during the day.
“It’s very exciting times at the energy space at Monash.”
When he is not working Gordon is a keen reader and currently on a big Terry Pratchett bender.
“I’m about half way through the series.” No small feat, there are 41 novels in the series. He also enjoys catching a movie or two at the cinema.
“There’s the magnificent little Sun theatre at Yarraville which has a terrific atmosphere where we like to go.”
He has recently adopted a Greyhound which he takes on morning walks and on adventures to the beach with his wife. Most weekends they spend with the in-laws in Mount Macedon. The dog is named Cleaver after the brilliant and self-destructive barrister Cleaver Greene in the Australian TV-series Rake.
“But my dog is a far better person than Cleaver Greene is”, he says.
Meet your new colleagues
Most people who move to Australia from abroad have one major complaint. It is so far from everything else. Except perhaps New Zeeland. For Ayushi Bajaj it was the opposite. After she finished her PhD from University of California, at Irvine, outside Los Angeles, she chose Melbourne explicitly because it is closer to home. And compared to California, the trip from Melbourne to her home town of Ranchi in Eastern India, takes only half the time.
Although Melbourne is colder than she expected, she’s happy about her choice.
“So far I really like Monash. I’m at the Caulfield campus and everyone is really friendly. It’s active in the sense there are seminars and conferences going on and Caulfield is very well located to get into the city.”
She recently got married but her husband is still living in India.
“We both like Melbourne so now he’s looking for jobs here.”
Ayushi Bajaj has been at the department for about a year and her research focuses on macro theory and the effects of monetary policy.
“It is pretty abstract but I try to do some applied theory like the demonetisation in India and thinking about what the effects will be.”
When she is not working she likes biking, going to the theatre, hiking and reading. She reads both fiction and non-fiction.
“I was reading Arundathi Roy’s latest novel “The ministry of utmost happiness” and I was about half way through when my husband came to visit, then he started reading the book and took it with him back to India so I haven’t finished. I am also reading “An uncertain glory” by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen on the political economy of India.
Reflecting on these topics is what drove Ayushi into economics in the first place. Amartya Sen’s earlier book “Development as freedom” was an inspiration when she wanted to become an economist.
“When you come from a less developed country you think about the problems and how to overcome those. The political issues got me interested. I thought if I study Economics I’ll at least get a better understanding of what’s happening even if I can’t do anything major.”
But before, when Ayushi was a child, long before she went to university she wanted to become a teacher.
“When we were kids and in a group I enjoyed teaching the others. When I was in second grade I wanted to be a second grade teacher and so on up until college when I wanted to be a college professor and that’s what I became. That was another reason for me to do a PhD, not only for the research but also for the teaching.”
So you enjoy the teaching?
“Yes I taught 300 pupils at once last semester which was a first to teach such a big group. I was a bit worried but it was fun.”
Arthur Campbell is the Melburnian economists who left for America and returned to his home town to put down roots and be close to his family.
He‘s not the newest of the department recruits, so he’s probably a familiar face to many. And if you were in Melbourne twenty years ago, you may even have run into him then – on a beach or a hiking trail.
When Arthur Campbell graduated with a degree in engineering and commerce from the University of Melbourne it didn’t take many years working in industry before he realised he wanted to learn more about economics.
So he left Melbourne for America in 2004 in pursuit of Graduate study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. Fourteen years later, accompanied by an American wife and their daughter Arthur Campbell returned. These days he lives just ten minutes from his childhood home.
“I was always planning on coming back. We spent a number of years on the American East coast and the last year and a half in San Francisco. We moved a lot. Once we had a baby we just thought it was time to put some roots down. Most of my wife’s family is in Alaska so not a lot of opportunities there”, he says.
How was returning to Melbourne, has the city changed a lot?
“I’ve been returning frequently but the inner city has changed so much. The CBD used to be this ghost town on the weekends whereas now it’s really lively. The skyline has changed a lot and so have many of the neighbourhoods like the Docklands or Southbank. It’s a lot more gentrified.”
Why did you choose Monash?
“I’m specialised in networks and economics. It’s still quite a new field relatively speaking and there are some really good people here to work with. I also work on Industrial Organization and it’s the same thing, some really great people. You don’t just want to sit in your office without anyone to talk to. It’s so important with people to bounce ideas off and generate work.”
What do you do when you’re not working?
“I’m a sporty and outdoorsy person. I still play indoor soccer with the same bunch of people I played with when I lived here before. I went away but they’ve just kept playing for 23 years. We’re much slower and we run far less. If I can get out and play golf I enjoy it. I like to go to the beach and hiking. Hiking is harder with a small child. We tried to take our two year old up “The Thousand steps walk” in the Dandenong ranges. We tried taking her in a backpack but that was pretty unsuccessful, she just wanted to go to the playground.”
Any favourite beaches or hiking trails?
“I love the beach down at Dromana (on the Mornington Peninsula). My great grandfather built a house down there in the 30s and we still go down there. It reminds me of my childhood. There are some good hiking trails down there too around Cape Shank.”
What did you want to be when you were a child?
“I wanted to be a footballer. I support the Western Bulldogs and I guess that’s what I wanted to do.”
Do you have any hidden talents, something people don’t know about you?
“Maybe that I played Aussie Rules football when I was in the US. Boston had a team and I met both locals and other Australians. We’d play teams from all over the East coast. But I retired when I reached about 30. That’s the expiry date for footballers, that’s when you get injured every time you play.”
Meet your new colleague
Four questions for Dr Michelle Rendall
Senior Lecturer Dr Michelle Rendall doesn’t like the question “where are you from?”. It always gets so complicated. She was born in Chile but has several passports from many different countries.
"I am really from nowhere. I feel rootless and I think that’s one of the reasons I’m in Australia. I’m willing to go anywhere in the world."
She has lived in Chile, Colombia, the US, Norway, Germany and most recently Switzerland,
The question of what is her mother tongue gets equally complicated.
"I speak Spanish, German and English, all with an accent. That’s what I grew up with."
After some years in Switzerland Michelle and her husband were looking to move to an English-speaking country. America seemed too boring, and after Brexit, Britain lost its’ attraction.
"We were looking for a new adventure and Australia sounded good. I had some offers from Europe but it seemed too safe a choice. Monash gave me a good offer and judging by the people I met I would have some great colleagues", she says.
Michelle has been at Monash Business School since last November, based at Caulfield.
After the pristine, structured, controlled life of Switzerland, Michelle says Melbourne offers a much more relaxed lifestyle.
"We have a young child and the work life balance here is good. People are nice even if the city is large," she says.
The main drawback of Melbourne is the housing market. She’s still looking for a house - but feels houses are not quite up to Swiss standards.
Michelle specialises in gender and human capital related topics. She focuses on labour economics from a macro perspective. "I research topics like why do women choose different occupations compared to men, why do women earn less?"
Q1: What do you do when you are not working?
"Right now, I don’t have many hobbies because I’m busy with a ten-moth old but otherwise I like to hike and play tennis."
With a baby, there is no time for television or movies but Michelle is a keen cook, at the moment mostly experimenting with Indian dishes. She is also an avid reader both of fiction and non-fiction.
"I read a lot of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende. I’ll be honest, I let my husband choose the books and we both get them on Kindle. I’ve been reading a lot about the world wars."
Q2: Not economics?
"No not really, but then I think most things are economics, it’s human behaviour."
Q3: What did you want to become as a child?
"I wanted to do something with maths. I wanted to be an astronomer but I think economics gives you more options."
Q4: Is there anything people should know about you?
"I’m an introvert so if people want to talk to me they have to approach me. I don’t mean to be rude, I’m just a little shy."