News & Stories
Brooke Hansbrough
June 21, 2023

Well-rounded business student lands research position with Federal Reserve Bank

Brooke Hansbrough ’23 came to Berry knowing that she wanted to build something that would help people and make a positive impact on the world. She is well on her way — having secured a two-year research associate position with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond after completing an internship collaborating with Federal Reserve economists. She plans on obtaining a Ph.D. in economics. “I’d love to work for the World Bank, the UN or another international aid agency to empirically evaluate aid programs and find out what actually works for helping people,” she says.

Majoring in economics and Spanish plus minoring in mathematics and physics, Brooke embraced activities at Berry with energy and determination — including her position as the technical director of Berry Outdoor Leadership Development (BOLD). The program provides teambuilding and adventure challenges for college and community groups, with a challenge course consisting of low elements, which are cabled and wooden structures approximately 3 feet from the ground, and high elements, which elevate participants to heights of over 30 feet on trees, poles, cables and platforms.

“I’ve had experiences across the board with Berry, from learning coding in Stata and R to regularly working with people at 50 feet in the air to studying original documents from Spanish conquistadors to learning about quantum mechanics,” Brooke says. “I like to laugh and spend time with my friends, and Berry’s unparalleled community has allowed me to play hard as well as work hard.”

Brooke says her relationship with mentor Frank Stephenson, Henry Gund Professor of Economics, shaped her professional path. He offered her a position as an economics tutor and research assistant, and they forged a meaningful collaboration. As a researcher with the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund, Brooke analyzed whether Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s temporary halt on states gas taxes during a pipeline hack resulted in lower prices for consumers. In 2021, she published the results as the lead author of an article in the Atlantic Economic Journal, with Stephenson as co-author. She also presented research at the Southern Economic Association’s annual conference that fall.

Stephenson was instrumental in Brooke’s acceptance to the Expanding Diversity in Economics Summer Institute at the University of Chicago where she interacted with Nobel Prize-winning economists. “This was an invaluable steppingstone to getting an internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in 2022, and I believe it was a great kick-starter for my economics career outside of Berry,” she says. Fellow institute participants and staff voted her “Most Likely to Save the World.”

The combination of rigorous academics and professional development through Berry’s work positions made an indelible impression. “Though my research position has given me many technical skills I will need in my future career, my work experience as a senior ropes course facilitator has given me many soft skills,” Brooke reflects. “I’ve learned how to facilitate teams, communicate needs effectively and manage conflict, all of which might be invaluable for any career I might end up in.”

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