Alumni News

March 5, 2021 at 2:20 pm

Happy Beginnings | Sue Ryu Goes Right to Work on Societal Issues

Sue Ryu with her mom, Won.

Sue Ryu with her mom, Won.

Editor’s Note: The Happy Beginnings series features recent College of Arts & Sciences graduates who are getting started in careers, graduate school and service.

Sue Ryu ’20 hit her stride her senior year at Ohio University. Now she’s putting her economics degree to use with some D.C. think tanks—and taking a look at interdisciplinary issues facing society and policy.

She combined two social sciences—economics and anthropology—as a student at OHIO.

“Econ has trained me to read about climate change and seek out its link to poverty, read about COVID-19 impacts and seek to understand and quantify its relationship to authoritarianism, etc. but also to remain healthily critical about causation and correlation. Similarly creative approaches and questions have been welcomed a lot as I started working!” she says.

Q: Tell us a little about your career.  How have you been able to make an impact?

  • Since graduating, I have been involved in policy research with some D.C. think tanks. Because I have looked specifically for roles that allow me to inform policy research and the public on issues of corruption, illicit finance, crime and governance, my impact is probably limited to the circles that are interested in those topics. But, I’d like to believe I am helping to provide factual and critical information to the public and relevant decision makers.

Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO—that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”?

  • My ah-ha moment only came my senior year when I realized, while walking to my rock-climbing session during free time, that I was doing everything I needed to be doing at the moment—hanging out with Athens friends, concurrently keeping up with abroad friends and practicing my languages, finishing my thesis, understanding my math classes, and exercising or creating art every day. I was like wow, I’m a whole person!

Q: How have you used economic thinking in your career?

  • I’ve used economic thinking a lot, though not necessarily because of the technical thinking since many fields can do the math better. But because economics is, in my opinion, one of the leading academic fields in experimenting with multidisciplinary questions and approaches, economic thinking has been invaluable in evaluating the unfortunately interdisciplinary issues facing general society and policy.

Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life? Was it coursework or a life lesson that they passed on? And how did you apply that knowledge?

  • All of the below passed on skills + life lessons that I continuously applied while finishing school, job searching, and while doing my jobs. From our relationships, I also learned that making strong individual connections with researchers (and other students) is the most crucial aspect of school, more than doing well in classes, since professors will look out for you, send opportunities your way, and continue to support you in ways outside of class, like providing reference letters for years.
  • Julia Paxton (Economics): The Economics of Poverty class I took with Dr. Paxton founded my interest in development economics and inspired me to later pursue a study abroad in Brazil, a country that I had studied in-depth for her class. My Honors Tutorial College tutorial with her also gave me confidence in conducting economic surveys, analyzing collected data, and presenting it, all of which have been relevant skills within my job functions since graduating.
  • Smoki Musaraj (Anthropology): Dr. Musaraj was my adviser and often, tutorial professor, for four years, so I cannot pick one class. But, overall she taught me almost all of my skills as a qualitative researcher—covering the boring stuff like grant writing and receiving IRB approval, but also imparting lessons on how to be an ethical and sensitive learner, how to persevere without doubting yourself, and how to integrate qualitative and quantitative narratives. Since I’m currently in policy research and studying topics she introduced to me, like corruption, I’ve used these lessons every day in work.
  • Roberto Duncan (Economics): Dr. Duncan’s Macroeconomics class was the most difficult class I took at OU, but equally as rewarding in the moment I realized I could keep up with the quantitative underbelly of Economics. While I was his research assistant, he taught me lessons about challenging myself to self-teach programs, formulas, and theories in economics, but also shedding the great obstacle of embarrassment and reaching out for help when needed. He also demystified and removed fear around the economics research process significantly, which provided me with invaluable motivation to eventually pursue an Economics Ph.D.

Q: Do you still keep in touch with any of your faculty?

  • I keep in touch with any faculty I had extended interactions with, even if our interactions were never through classes. Dr. Paxton, Dr. Musaraj, Dr. Duncan, Dr. McSteen, and Dr. Partyka come to mind immediately, even though I only ever had class with Dr. Partyka for two weeks during my whole four years at OU!

Q:  What was the hardest hill you had to climb (not counting Jeff Hill) at OHIO? And how did you overcome challenges or obstacles in your path?

  • I am still climbing it, but the comparison hill. It was very hard to remember to judge myself based on how far I’d come from past me and not based on where others were on their own hills, but I think intentionally facing both my achievements + areas of improvement helped me overcome that a little.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?

  • Pretty much all my good memories exist because I was lucky enough to find a wild and close friend group who could indulge in legal Court Street activities on Saturday nights and then meet at Alden to study the next Sunday morning.

Q: What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss?

  • The Athens outdoors—Strouds/Dow Lake, Hocking Hills, Sells Park, biking to Little Fish on the bike path, hammocking on campus with books and homework and a chocolate croissant from the Front Room.

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