Undergraduate Student Spotlights

Emma Lai

Hometown: Rockford, IL

Year in School: Senior

Interests/Hobbies: Tennis, Piano, Percussion

Employment/Involvements/Activities: Women in Economics, Brauer Group Lab, Center for Religion and Global Citizenry, UpperHouse Fellowship Program

Why did you decide to attend UW-Madison?

I chose UW-Madison because of its people. When I visited as a high school student, I accidentally took a calc 2 midterm. Despite the stress those poor students were going through, they were still happy to answer my strange questions about UW. It’s that kind of honesty and compassion that made me feel most at home with UW.

What has been your favorite Econ course?

My favorite Econ class is Dan Quint’s Markets and Models class (Econ 690) because it was extremely challenging and fast paced in a way that captivated me throughout the whole semester. There were no slides or dry lecture material, only a chalkboard and proofs. Although I am not particularly strong in math, studying the mathematical basis of the dating market, Google ad auctions, and residency program algorithms challenged me to think differently about the world around me.

What resources have you found most helpful when you have struggled in a class?

Women in Economics (WE) has been my resource for all things Econ related since freshman year. When struggling in a class (like Econ 301), I would turn to my fellow WE members to form collaborative study groups. If I felt stressed, I knew I could attend the next WE social event to relax and meet other women going through a similar experience. Beyond class, WE general meetings have helped me in building my network and bolstering my confidence in Economics.

Where did you intern, and did you have a good experience? Why or why not?

I went into my internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago with the idea that it would be a great experience, but I completely underestimated how welcoming, inclusive, encouraging, and collaborative the Chicago Fed’s culture was. I had an amazing team that taught me not only how to do my job, but also the skills I needed to exceed in the workplace. Besides the culture, though, visualizing and analyzing people data at the Chicago Fed was the first time I truly “lost” myself in my work because I enjoyed it so much. I am truly grateful for the opportunity.

Do you know what you want to do after graduation? If yes, what? If not, what advice would you give to other students who maybe don’t know either?

Do I have any idea what I am doing post-graduation? Not really, but building relationships with people at my various internships helped discern what work I like and dislike. I can say that I really like people analytics and that I am considering grad school after working for a bit. However, the best advice I have for people struggling with what they want to do is to NETWORK! Don’t be afraid to reach out to the people you meet. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Schedule a 15-minute coffee chat. Ask them about their career path and the advice they have for you. The worst thing they can do is ignore you; so just reach out.