Donna K. Ginther, Ph.D.

Donna K. Ginther, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Economics; Director, Center for Economic & Business Analysis at the Institute for Policy & Social Research


Additional honors, achievements and special recognition:

Running the CeMENT mentoring workshops for junior researchers in the economics profession. I coordinated the 2008 and 2010 workshops for 40 junior researchers and 20 senior researchers at each conference shared the unwritten rules of having a productive research and academic career. Our research on CeMENT workshops shows that these programs have a positive and significant impact on the careers of the participants.

My work on the faculty compensation committee to develop and implement tenure stop clock and active service, modified duties policies for KU faculty.

How I became interested in my area of study/research/discipline:

I started college as a communications major with a vague interest in a political career. I took macroeconomics my second semester, and it was the most difficult class I had ever encountered. I was fascinated by the complexity and challenge of economics and how the course material related to the real world. During my sophomore year of college, I left college to live in Washington, D.C. and work on Capitol Hill while taking evening courses. Seeing the political process first-hand, I realized that politicians spend most of their time squabbling over the allocation of scarce resources which is the essence of economics. As a result, I returned to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and majored in economics.

An honor, achievement or accomplishment that is most meaningful to me:

My testimony before the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education of the U.S. House of Representatives on the Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Act of 2008. This legislation has been passed by the House of Representatives and is under consideration by the Senate. Most academic research is read by other academics. It was exciting and fulfilling to know that my research has an impact on public policy and might help to further women's academic careers.

Someone who has been a role model for me:

I cannot point to a single role model in my career as an economist. Instead, I have had many role models depending on my life's circumstances. As a child, my 4-H leader, Vivian Bowles, taught me how to sew, but more importantly, she taught me how to do my best work, even if it meant ripping out and redoing a seam over and over again. In my early career, Bob Haveman, Bobbi Wolfe, Chuck Manksi, and Bob Pollak taught me how to be a research economist. As my career has evolved, my peers and coauthors have helped me to navigate the ups and downs of academic life. Shulamit Kahn, Rachel Croson and Laure Haak have helped me do some of my best work, have provided valuable career opportunities and advice and are great fun to work with too!

Someone who has been influential or had a significant impact on my life:

My parents, James and Freda Ginther, stressed the importance of a college education. My husband, Rodger Erickson, taught me that personal happiness is more important than external measures of success. He's been the best traveling companion and academic spouse that I could hope for. Hannah Garrick showed me how to believe in myself and to trust my own judgment. My children, Bryce and Adele have taught me the importance of living in the moment and finding joy in living and learning.

My most favorite memory as a student, staff member or faculty:

I delight in the success of my students and the women I have mentored. In 2007, my undergraduate thesis advisee, Laura Dague was awarded a one of three prizes for best undergraduate thesis at KU. She is currently in the economics PhD program at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2009, my graduate student, Serena Huang and I received a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to fund her dissertation research. Sarah Frazelle took the idea of using data to research education outcomes and is helping to build the framework for the Kansas City Area Education Research Consortium. I am pleased that many of the women I have mentored in the CeMENT workshops have had productive research careers, happy families, and have become tenured faculty members as well.

An important life lesson I have learned:

The importance of placing myself first by having a balanced life. I cannot be good at my many roles — spouse, parent, teacher and mentor — if I have not taken care of my own needs for sleep, a healthy diet, exercise and relaxation. It takes constant work to strike the right balance, and I don't always get it right.

If I had a sister just entering college, I would want her to know...

College is just the beginning of a life that requires a commitment to and love for learning. To be successful both personally and professionally, you need to make a commitment to learn, grow, and change.

A favorite quote or saying:

"Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally." ~David Frost

Early in my career, my research was more about economic techniques than economic questions. My colleague, Mary Olson gave me some great advice: to be an effective researcher I needed to work on topics that I was passionate about regardless of what other people thought. Since I started pursuing questions about gender differences in academic careers, a topic of great personal and professional interest to me, a wealth of opportunities have come my way.