Francesco Loiacono

Francesco spent 6 months in Chicago, visiting the Chicago Booth School of Business, from September 2019 to March 2020, only having to cut his visit short by a couple of weeks:

"I have been lucky: due to the incoming coronavirus emergency, I had to anticipate my return to Sweden of only 2 weeks, so I would say I did not miss much!"

What was the purpose of your visit to Chicago Booth?

The main purpose was to work together with prof. Emanuele Colonnelli, who I have been working with since 2014, prior to starting my PhD. Together with prof. Edoardo Teso (at the Kellogg School of Management), we are running an experiment in Uganda, to study how to increase transparency of the public procurement sector of this country. The purpose of my visit was to work together on the theoretical framework of the experiment, as well as to facilitate the implementation of the project in Uganda. At the same time, I took the opportunity to present my job market project to some of the top professors in development economics at the Harris School of Public Policy, the UChicago Department of Economics and Northwestern University. Finally, I experienced the beauty and the dynamism of one of the most fascinating city in the world, took some time to travel to visit family in Boston and Providence and explored new states, such as Puerto Rico, characterized by a completely different cultural flavour than the rest of the US.

What did you learn?

While working with Emanuele and Edoardo was not a new experience for me, this time I witnessed the extremely stimulating environment they confront themselves with every day. It was also very nice to visit and talk with different scholars in the Chicago area, who have all found a piece of their time to chat with visiting students. The diversity of this experience was really rich: the Chicago hub attracts scholars not only from the city, but also from Universities outside the state of Illinois, with different researchers of the University of Notre Dame residing in Chicago rather than in Indiana.

Finally, the Chicago Booth School of Business is not only a place where research is conducted at the highest levels, but also a centre that attracts the most talented managers, social entrepreneurs and policy makers, sharing their views around the most different topics, from business to corruption and to economic development. Having a chance to participate in some of these seminars was a mind-blowing experience.

What was different about Chicago Booth compared to the IIES?

At Chicago Booth, there is a larger number of PhD students compared with the IIES, and this makes the work environment unavoidably more fragmented and less collaborative: it is more likely to see students working alone or in smaller groups, and communicating less than at the IIES. This is not true everywhere, though: at the Northwestern University, where I attended some of the meetings of the development economics group it was more likely to observe students working on projects together. One of the things I liked the most were the “development breakfasts” organized by Chris Udry and Dean Karlan, where students interested in development could discuss ideas with the professors in front of a cup of coffee and a bagel at 8 in the morning. I am excited to see that something similar is starting at the IIES, too, with tea replacing coffee while keeping the same intense flavour that I got in Chicago!

However, (and this is what I missed the most from the IIES) there seems to be a general separation between the students and the professors and in general it is more complicated to bump into each other due to the huge spaces that the departments are spread across. The IIES is also truly unique with its lunches, games and parties!

On the brighter side, though, UChicago and Northwestern organize a massive number of public seminars with the most diverse crowd of experts from around the US and the world. This makes both the universities more central spaces of public debate, encouraging students to confront themselves with what happens outside academia, too.

This experience would have never been possible without the generosity of the Wallander and Hedelius Foundation. Their support to students like me in Sweden is one of the many reasons why we feel honored to work and study in this country. 

Welcome back Francesco!