Professor Russell Smyth and Senior Lecturer Gennadi Kazakevitch are awarded the 25 Year Service Award from Monash University. The award was postponed due to COVID-19 so Gennadi has already spent close to 27 years at Monash University. He is very grateful for this acknowledgement.
“Throughout my lifetime endeavours, any awards have been unimportant for me except this one. I have spent more than half my work life at Monash,” Gennadi says.
Gennadi Kazakevitch started his career at the Economics Section of the Business School at the Monash Gippsland campus in 1994, just a few years after he arrived in Australia from Moscow in Russia. From 1997, that group of Monash economics was amalgamated with the Department of Economics.
For some years he was the departmental coordinator in charge of the campuses at Gippsland, Berwick and Peninsula, as well as the Malaysia and South Africa campuses.
“I was there when the Berwick campus opened and I was there to close it too.”
For 10 years he was the Deputy Head of Department and Director of Education before recently transferring these portfolios.
“I think I have contributed to all the different education programs we run. I never expected my career to be so focused on education and management. I am very proud that so many of my former students have gone on to work in government, businesses and academia across Australia and overseas - thousands of people who have contributed to the prosperity of the world,” he says.
“My intentions when I started at Monash was to concentrate on research, but I don’t regret it. I am very positive.”
How has Monash changed during the time you have worked here?
“A really good change is that Monash has become even more diverse. We are a really international community of academics and students. Australia in general is a very harmonious community and Monash is even better.
“On the downside, we have moved from being an academic institution to a commercialised organisation and we are suffering from it now. We have become too reliant on international students. The current crisis hurts us, and we are losing students and staff because there is too much emphasis on the market component.”
In some respects, Australia is better off than many other countries during this pandemic. Still, Gennadi is concerned about the future.
“I am worried. On top of COVID-19 we have a worsening relationship with China. Australia has put all its eggs in one basket. I expect we will recover at a lesser level of prosperity and we will be forced to restructure our economy more than a lot of people understand at this stage.“
Currently Gennadi is in his first year of a two-year pre-retirement contract, which implies retirement from his current position at the end of 2021. At the end of the contract he will be happy to do casual teaching if the opportunity arises.
Otherwise he will increase his hours of volunteering for his local Lions club and pick up the Argentinian tango again.
“I don’t think my colleagues know this about me. They know I’m a published poet but not that I dance the tango. Once the pandemic is over, I look forward to dancing the tango with my wife again.”
Welcome to the Department, Professor Mark Crosby
Professor Mark Crosby joins the Department of Economics and the leadership team of the revised Masters degree which will have a new professional focus.
“I'm excited about working with the Department to build a Masters of Economics cohort. I think that a true cohort experience adds tremendous value to the students, but is also very rewarding for us as educators.
"We hope to see growth in the Masters degree numbers, and in time a truly differentiated MEc that fits the career aspirations of our students,” Mark says.
Many of you will already know Mark from other roles within the Business and Economics faculty. He has served as our most recent Director of Bachelor of International Business and as a member of the MBA team.
He has broad skills and experience in leadership, education, research, consulting, and policy.
His focus will include business and academic development of the Masters program as well as convening the current year-long research class, which will be refocusing into a professional skills keystone class.
Mark's appointment with the Economics Department will be as Level E (education focused, 30% FTE) commencing at the start of 2021; he will continue to also have a fraction with the Leadership and Executive Education group. His role comes with some challenges.
“There is always a lot of competition for students, and in the short run the travel bans will make international recruiting challenging. Hopefully by mid-2021 we will see new international students arriving in Melbourne, setting us off on a new growth trajectory,” he says.
Mark joined Monash in 2016, following over 15 years with Melbourne University. He received his PhD from Queen’s University in Canada in 1993, and since that time Mark has had previous academic appointments include the University of Toronto, UNSW, and Melbourne. In 2011 he accepted the role of Dean at the SP Jain School of Global Management in Singapore, before returning to Melbourne Business School in 2013.
Mark Crosby’s academic interests are in international macroeconomics, with particular interest in policy issues in the Australian and Asian regions. His published research has covered topics such as the role of exchange rates in affecting macroeconomic fluctuations, the impact of macroeconomic factors on election outcomes, and the properties of business cycles.
“It has been a long time since I worked in an economics department, and I'm looking forward to getting back to focusing on some applied economics issues again.”
Responding to assault disclosures
Journals adapt to the new normal
The pandemic has put journals and their editors under pressure. We spoke to three editors in the department who are adapting their content and extending the time granted for peer-review and re-submissions.
Professor Lata Gangadharan is Chief Co-editor of Experimental Economics. Operating under Covid-19 in the last few months has been frantic, she says.
“Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic in our lifetimes, it has been difficult to think of appropriate responses," she says.
"We have made efforts along the following lines: we are planning to publish a special symposium: Symposia on Behavioral Economics of the COVID-19 Pandemic (check this out in the Events section).
"We are also providing more time to authors to re-submit their revisions and more time for the reviewers to submit peer review reports, if required. We also take into account that the decision process considers the difficulty in collecting additional lab and field data during this time," she says.
What has it been like working as an editor during this time? “It has been very frantic! Submissions at Experimental Economics have increased by 32 per cent, relative to the same time last year.
"It has however become significantly more difficult to get reviewers for the peer review process. There are also more emails from authors and reviewers who have concerns or questions about delays in their work.
These concerns are often from researchers who have caring responsibilities, says Professor Gangadharan.
"Making editorial decisions has become more complicated, as cases where you could recommend that authors collect more data as a way to address reviewer comments, is not as feasible in the current situation,” she says.
Associate Professor Lionel Frost is the editor of Australian based journal Sporting Traditions and a member of the board of Australian Economic History Review. He is also a board member of the US-based Journal of Urban History.
In his experience, the journals he edits haven’t been affected too much.
“There is a pretty solid bank of submissions. None of the journals have made any attempt to develop pandemic-related content, through special issues. I'm aware of other journals that are advising that reviews are likely to take longer with the review process, but I'm not aware of any greater than normal delay. I still need to chase up referees from time to time, but that's always been the case.
"The bigger impact has been on a book on environmental history I'm co-editing, which involves international contributors. We're running about six months behind schedule in getting the manuscript to the publisher, as authors in Europe and the US have been hit hard by lockdowns, and the closure of libraries and archives.”
What has it been like working as an editor during this time? “Like all aspects of academic and everyday life, the pandemic has changed how we do things in unprecedented ways," says Associate Professor Frost.
Apart from missing my family, colleagues, and students, the extra work in getting teaching up and running cuts in to the number of hours I have available to do research, writing, and editorial work.”
Professor Yves Zenou is currently the guest editor of a special issue of Labour Economics.
“As a result of the pandemic I have given people more time to referee papers and to authors to compete their papers. It’s important to be more lenient to understand that people have a lot of other constraints. Usually we would be tougher with deadlines. So this issue will probably take a bit longer than usual to complete,” he says.
He has never experienced a situation like this before and it has meant the editorial process is adjusted.
“I have decided to base my decision of acceptance or rejection on the paper itself and not asking for new empirical research because it’s not possible to ask authors to go back to the lab or the field during this time.”
WFH a great challenge for many academics
Working from home has propelled us all into changing our routines and for female academics with younger children, the work situation has been especially challenging. We spoke to several colleagues in the department who have fought hard to stay sane while juggling online teaching, research and administrative tasks with the demands of home schooling and child care.
As we all know the impacts of COVID-19 are not gender neutral. Women shoulder more of the carer’s burden. Even if men are having to step up to help out more at home, this pandemic has really affected our female academics.
Mother of Maya, 3 and Mason, 9 months
"I'm teaching in semester one. As a result of COVID-19 shutting down we suddenly and very quickly had to adjust to teaching online which was a major challenge. At the same time, we had to find new routines for the kids with all the restrictions. It was a very stressful time with new changes everyday and most importantly explaining the changes to the kids and ensuring they are not impacted by restrictions both physically and mentally. Coordinating the work with my husband was key but during the first six weeks I didn’t have time to do any research, teaching was my only focus. The situation has meant less sleep and working most weekends to keep up."
Mother of two daughters, Nalini aged 2 and Meenakshi, aged 7 months
"I have been working when they nap, and at night every day of the week including weekends. The older one has spent more time in front of a screen than I would like. I have said no to a couple of referee reports, but all the editors have been really understanding. My husband Andrew has been taking a couple of days of carer’s leave to make it easier on me. I suppose you could say, the commute, the chat over the coffee machine or lunch has been replaced with playing with my kids, so "you win some, you lose some." In addition, for the introvert in us, I do find working from home comes with its upside. Part of me dreads going back to 'normal'. Lastly, I do find articles suggesting that people have more time and taking up hobbies humorous. I barely find time to read the news each day, let alone watch a movie or take up a new hobby."
Mother of Matteo, 6 and Manuel 1.5 years old
‘We had both kids at home for about seven weeks. My husband Pietro and I took shifts. This meant we had to work weekends and evenings to make up some hours. When homeschooling started, things became much harder. My oldest son Matteo needed some attention and quiet to complete tasks or zoom meetings; with my youngest son Manuel around that was almost impossible. A couple of weeks after homeschooling started we felt comfortable sending Manuel back to childcare as the numbers of COVID cases dropped. That simplified things again. But the important message for all of us as we move on from this situation is: our efforts this year might not show on our CVs but they most likely are our greatest achievement."
New colleague Sascha Becker
The economist with a fascination for the past
As an economic historian, Sascha O. Becker is always dreaming of the perfect data set. He likes economics because it not only involves a mix of hard science modelling and statistical methods, but always has a narrative. And he believes narratives are important if you want to make a point.
Sascha is from Idar-Oberstein, a small town in Rheinland-Pfalz in Western Germany. He is a first generation academic. His mother worked at home and his father for the railways. This upbringing influenced his career choice.
“When I was deciding what to do after school my father, who was a civil servant with a lifetime job, suggested I should be a civil servant like him. He suggested I become a teacher and that sounded reasonable to me at the time.”
To save money, he decided to study in Bonn, where his grandmother lived – not realising it was the Germany's best university for maths and economics.
"I guess in the end I got some good training,” he says.
Sascha initially found the maths in his teaching degree very dry. Then a friend dragged him to an economics lecture and he understood how the maths might be applied.
He ultimately chose to continue with economics, focusing on economic history following after his PhD.
“My PhD supervisor in Florence, Andrea Ichino, always gave the advice that before you do empirical work you should ask yourself what the ideal data set would be for your hypothesis.
"I was working on the hypothesis that Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic doesn’t really explain the difference between denominations in terms of economic achievement. Instead, we thought that education might play a role, because Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, wanted everyone to be able to read the bible, which required people to be able to read at all.
"We thought the ideal data set might not be modern but historic, as Protestantism came about in the 16th century. We started digging in the archives and found census data from the 19th century and that’s how I accidentally used historic data for the first time.”
He has spent many hours in the Bavarian State library and the Vienna National library. Nowadays a lot of the material is digitised but he believes there is so much to learn from being in an archive.
“Walking along the shelves you discover other stuff that may be even more exciting than what you were initially looking for,” he says.
So what would be your ideal data set?
“It would be amazing if we knew more about individuals far back in time. There are some population numbers, but biographic data mostly only on famous people. But we know very little about ordinary people before the 1800s. The holy grail of economic history would be to say more about life in the countryside where there is very little data.”
His current research focuses on German economic history and with the help of data from as far back as the 1300s he has looked at the development of anti-Semitism and the economic factors behind it.
In another recent paper he tested the 'Uprootedness hypotheses' using data on Polish refugees after the Second World War, when Polish borders moved 300 km westwards, and found that those who were forced to leave everything behind did invest more in education – a good no one can take away from you.
“It’s a strong message that being uprooted and losing everything is life changing. But our finding that the kids of these people go on to be more educated is a silver lining to this experience of forced migration.”
Sascha has lived and worked in Paris, Florence, Munich, Scotland and, for the last nine years, in Warwick, England, with a year on sabbatical in Los Angeles in between. With Brexit looming he started looking at other options and was impressed by the ambitious stance of Monash.
“Monash has risen to be one of the best, perhaps even the best, economics department in the Southern Hemisphere. I thought: ‘If they can get Yves Zenou, whose work I admire, to move across the world, maybe it could be good for me too.’ And my wife said yes so here we are.”
He appreciates the cross-departmental cooperation, with computer science, for example. Another attraction was SoDa Lab with their methods of working with different sources of data and the growing group of network economists.
“People in the department have open doors and we have a lot of social activities. A department is not a collection of CVs but a collection of humans who interact. That’s the Monash vibe which I like.”
And Melbourne has lived up to every expectation from the green spaces, the weather, beaches and national parks to the culture and food. When Sascha isn’t working he’s either running or cycling. He also loves classical music and jazz as well as spending time with family and friends. His favourite composer is Dmitri Shostakovich.
Not only for the music itself but for his incredible life navigating 20th Century Soviet Union and writing captivating music.
“That’s what I do in the office. I listen to classical music while I work on my papers.”