When Ali Dadpay joined the Bill Munday School of Business last May, he brought expertise gleaned from a career in applied economics in corporate, governmental and academic settings. Now the associate dean and director of the MBA program is helping students — and his new home city — benefit from that experience.
This year Dadpay is leading an economic impact study for one of the city’s biggest athletic events: the Austin Marathon, which in 2016 contributed $25.7 million to the Austin economy. In partnership with marathon production company High Five Events, Dadpay and his students are calculating the travel spending by participants and their families; the contributions of volunteers, vendors and sponsors; and the jobs created by the race.
Why did you get into higher education?
As I was working on my doctoral’s degree in economics, I thought I was going to enter the private sector to work with investment companies. I did work on the industry side, but I came back to academia because I like teaching and interacting with people. Teaching has also allowed me to study and research aspects of the economy that fascinate me, such as why crashes happen and why markets fail, and the true story behind reactions to market structure and policymaking.
What excites you about joining The Bill Munday School of Business at St. Edward’s?
I love being part of business education because we prepare people to run the economy, to be the administrators and managers. I always tell people that even the biggest athlete or Hollywood star will not succeed financially if he or she doesn’t have the right manager. What makes me excited to come to St. Edward’s in particular is that we are part of the Austin ecosystem, the heart of innovation in the state of Texas and the Southwest. And I am excited that our students play a huge role in making Central Texas a successful regional economy and are entrepreneurs all over the world.
How are the students at St. Edward’s different from when you were in college?
Students today have instant access to a much larger amount of information via the Internet. I think sometimes they are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information and aren’t able to interpret it, to recognize the underlying trends or patterns. Especially in teaching economics and business education, we want our students to recognize the patterns. That’s the first stage of analytical and critical thinking.
What is a misconception about the study of economics?
People make assumptions based on how terms sound to them. When I talk about the free market, some people assume that means being corporate friendly or approving of certain policies that aren’t even based on the free market. Many people think that when economists say we are pro-market, that means we are pro-corporate or pro-Walmart. I want people — my students especially — to understand what these terms actually mean.
What advice do you give your students?
Never be the person who tells yourself no — especially in pursuing career goals or further education opportunities. There are other people who will tell you no. You have to be your own advocate and tell yourself that you can do it. You can have a startup, despite all odds. You have to try.
Interviewed by Katie Finney