Edinaldo Tebaldi, Ph.D., is a professor of economics at Bryant University, a researcher, and sought-after expert in applied econometrics and economic development. Tebaldi spent the past year working at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. in the area of economic development, and he returned to Bryant this fall. A native of Brazil,Tebaldi is the founder and former director of the Bryant Scholars program at Bryant University. He teaches Econometrics, Economic Growth, and International Economics.
Here, Professor Tebaldi talks about his role at the World Bank helping to tackle major global challenges like climate change, alleviating poverty, and promoting economic growth around the world. He also talks about bringing that expertise and experience into the classroom to teach and mentor students and ignite their curiosity.
Q: First, what does an applied economist do?
A: There are two features to the economics discipline – the development of conceptual models and the application of those models to address problems, also known as applied economics, which is the area I specialize in.
Applied economics is used to give us a complete understanding of economic situations and economic theories, and it provides the ability to make evidenced-based business- and government-level decisions, which is indispensable to decision-makers.
An applied economist uses their knowledge and analytical skills to advise a wide range of entities from private businesses to the government. They use their skills to recommend actions to reduce the risk (or maximize the return) of decisions proposed by individuals, businesses, and organizations, using models and data to predict outcomes. You'll find applied economists working in such diverse fields as banking and finance, consulting, management, market research, sales, insurance, real estate, health care administration, law or public administration.
Many are familiar with the image of the economist advising businesses or governments on economic conditions and monetary policy. They also can focus their work in the development of public policy in areas such as health care, welfare, and education and in efforts to reduce inequality, pollution, and crime.
Q: Like many Bryant professors, you apply your area of expertise in the real world, which you then use in the classroom. Recently you were invited to work for the World Bank—what work did you perform?
A: The World Bank is a multi-national organization whose key mission is to fight and alleviate poverty across the globe. The organization provides technical assistance as well as lending and finance operations to governments in order to help leaders around the world solve the economic challenges facing their country.
The Bank is divided into regions and sectors, and the staff are engaged in these different areas. I worked in a number of teams based in ECA, or Europe and Central Asia, as well as MENA, or Middle East and North Africa.
My work was focused on analyzing economic conditions and government policies, as well as the challenges posed by big issues such as climate change, the Syrian refugee crisis, and global changes, and to provide government policy recommendations to help alleviate poverty and promote economic growth in all the countries we visited.
My role in the projects I participated in was “the data guy”—I was the person who, bringing data and economic expertise, would translate the data gathered from household surveys, government census, etc., into policy actions.
Q: How do you bring your experience at the World Bank into the classroom, and how does this benefit your students?
A: My time at the World Bank helps me in my mission to help students become passionate economics analysts and learners here at Bryant. It’s given me an opportunity to learn about—and see firsthand—global issues that my students appreciate learning about, providing them global perspectives, and inspiration.
I figure if they are presented with these global challenges, they’ll get excited about economics and learn the tools that can help them solve those issues as tomorrow’s leaders.
I also bring to my students one of the most important tools I've learned during my time at the World Bank—how to build a systematic country diagnostic (SCD), which is now a big component of my Economic Growth class.
Through the SCD project, they learn about problems of other countries through analyzing real data that I’ve given them access to or they must collect; they learn how to combine data with economic thinking; and they learn a highly effective practice that’s been working at the World Bank, which can also be applied to a state, a municipality, or even to a business.
Q: In addition to coursework, what are other ways that you help students succeed?
A: One of the unique things about Bryant is that there is much room for development of mentor-mentee relationships, which we really enjoy, and even thrive on. Here students can form close connections with faculty who are experts in their field and in demand around the world. We’re able to give our students individual attention, and that’s a great way they can gain from my expertise. I’m able to coach them on academics, help them find what they’re passionate about, and how that can translate to a dynamic career.
Q: What trait do you think most helps a student excel at studying economics?
A: Curiosity. The best economic students are those who are very curious about how the economy works—and it’s their goal to understand it. We can teach you the quantitative skills, the basic math and statistics. We can teach you economy models and the economic framework. But it’s your curiosity and determination, combined with your goal to understand the economy, that's going to differentiate you and prepare you to succeed in economics, which will benefit you in whatever career you choose.