NDSU’s Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprisehas expanded and organized a variety of successful projects since it was organized in November 2016.
“The center engages in research and educational programs to uncover the institutions and policies that encourage and enhance human well-being,” explained director Jeremy Jackson, associate professor of agribusiness and applied economics. “The success of our first year has made us even more excited about the future. We will continue to educate students and the community about policies that can lead to more prosperous and happy lives.”
Jackson has been joined in the center’s 18 months by Raheem Williams, a research specialist; Kali Christianson, who conducts communications and outreach; and James Caton, a faculty fellow who is an assistant professor of agribusiness and applied economics. Ray March will join the team as another faculty fellow in August, and there are plans to hire a third fellow later this year.
During the past year, the center has initiated several new programs to advance its mission and the mission of the university. Its flagship program, the Capitalism and Society lecture series, invites dialogue between researchers, students and community members. These events are free and open to the public. The lecture series covers a variety of topics. Previous events focused on issues related to happiness, health care, disaster recovery, big-box retailers and entrepreneurship.
In spring semester, lectures were presented by Stephen Moore, an economic adviser to Donald Trump, and Michael Matheson Miller, the director and producer of “Poverty, Inc.” The center also hosted a free showing of “Poverty, Inc.” at the Fargo Theatre.
“We strive to add value to the campus and the community by bringing in speakers with diverse expertise,” said Jackson. “We always try to leave time for question-and-answer with the speakers so that the audience can interact with the ideas being presented. We also record the lectures and put them on our website so anyone can watch them.”
In addition to the lecture series, the center adds value through its scholarship programs. One of its student-focused initiatives, the Mancur Olson Scholars program, awards scholarships to students who participate in a semester-long reading and discussion group.
“The vision behind the reading group was to create a space for students to engage in civil discourse,” said Jackson. “There’s a lot of uncivil arguing on social media today, but there isn’t necessarily a place where students are encouraged to listen and discuss challenging ideas in an interdisciplinary setting. That’s what we wanted to be,” he said.
So far, students are responding. “Each student brings his or her own experiences and perspective to the group,” said Caton, the reading group leader. “It’s wonderful to see the students listening and responding to one another as they learn about each other’s views and how they were shaped by their background.” The inaugural reading group had eight participants and focused on themes of entrepreneurship. This spring, 10 scholars read about and discussed foreign aid. The reading group is set to continue next fall with 12 students.
Besides its educational programs, the center is focused on advancing the research side of its mission. It introduced a quarterly labor report that highlights regional trends in the labor force, employment, wages and other job-related topics. It also released its first policy paper, titled “Legal Plunder: Civil Asset Forfeiture in North Dakota.”
“We want to make sure that our research isn’t just being published for the academic community but for the businesses and organizations in our area,” said Jackson, noting the center’s research is available on its website. The center’s faculty and staff are available for limited speaking engagements throughout the state and region.
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