Graduate Student in Economics
"Opportunity" is a word that captures Lauren Schmitz’s experiences at The New School. A second-year economics graduate student, Lauren has already presented a paper, “The Giving Trap: Does Cultural Taxation Crowd Out Private Funding for the Arts?,” at a conference in Copenhagen hosted by the Association for Cultural Economics International. “I was only in the first year of my program, yet I was encouraged to go to the conference. There’s a great culture among intellectuals at The New School; your colleagues are always sending you information about what’s going on. That’s how I learned about the conference.” After her abstract was accepted, Lauren realized she needed to expand her paper and approached Professor Will Milberg for assistance. He responded with enthusiasm. “He said, ‘This is great!’” Lauren recalls. “And he helped me bring my paper up a few notches. Helping me was outside of what he had to do, but he made time for me anyway.” Lauren is sure that her presentation in Denmark was just the first of many chances she will have to publish and publicly discuss the work that is important to her.
According to Lauren, the opportunity to work on scholarly topics outside of mainstream economics is another reason The New School is a special place. “The New School’s commitment to a more heterodox approach to economics sets it apart from other institutions in the United States. An atmosphere of critical engagement defines our time in the classroom. We are required to learn about all historical and current approaches to economic theory, and our professors are constantly challenging us to question and explore all forms of analysis before we accept any theoretical framework or approach. I think this level of scholarship is vital right now, especially given the current state of affairs domestically and abroad.”
Lauren’s classes have enabled her to interact with students from around the world. “I remember sitting in my first day of class,” she says, “and realizing that all my classmates were from other countries. This diversity creates an amazing culture at The New School. Every student I’ve met is exceptional. They are all studying interesting topics that are not necessarily mainstream, and I think the chance to meet and learn from so many remarkable people is something else that sets The New School apart.”
Lauren herself has an interesting background. Before coming to The New School, she spent five years as a professional dancer, first with the Colorado Ballet and later with Kim Robards Dance, a modern dance company. She worked with outstanding choreographers and toured nationally and internationally—most recently to Beijing during the 2008 Olympics. Although Lauren no longer dances professionally, she maintains a connection to the arts through her research in cultural economics. She says, “Dancing professionally gave me a unique perspective on the arts, which is one reason for my interest in the efficacy of various funding mechanisms for cultural and social nonprofits.”
Lauren’s future in economics will mostly likely be in academia or government. For the next several years, she plans to continue her classroom studies and decide on a topic for her dissertation. She is also serving as a research assistant with the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA), the policy research arm of the Department of Economics. Along with faculty, she conducts research on critical public and international issues. “Working with prestigious faculty on research that has the potential to influence economic policy has been an amazing and invaluable experience for me in my career at The New School.”
Now, Lauren’s stages are those from which she formally presents her research and the informal ones of her seminars and study groups in the university. “Dancing gave me a great foundation for exploring my life to the fullest, but my time spent at The New School is giving me the means to develop a rewarding and fascinating career path that I never thought possible.”