Recent Transylvania grad pursues Ph.D. in economics at IU

Jack Berger '19 and Coach Brian Lane '90
Jack Berger, who received the Omicron Delta Epsilon “Rara Avis” Economics Award,
and Coach Brian Lane

Todd Berger ’87 played basketball for Coach Don Lane. His son, Jack Berger ’19, played golf for Coach Brian Lane ’90. Pioneers beget Pioneers. Transylvania is known for its unique traditions and legacies. But it’s the personal transformation—the journey that leads Pioneers to their true path—that may be the most important tradition of all. 

Jack Berger marvels a bit when considering his career path. Arriving at Transy four years ago, Berger figured he’d be a philosophy, politics and economics major and then go to law school. “Sounded like a good answer at the time,” he says with a laugh.

But, as he took classes introducing him to economics, he found that he “really liked them.” Professors encouraged him to take math classes in order to handle the challenges awaiting him in quantitative economics. He liked those too.

“I’d never thought of myself as a math person,” he admits, but was taken by the more abstract dimensions of higher level math. “You have to think deeply to get a question right,” he notes. Math became his minor.

Then Professor of Economics Rod Erfani invited Berger to work with him over the summer. With the help of a grant from the Kenan Fund for Faculty and Student Enrichment, Berger was able to “examine the determinants of foreign direct investment inflows to a panel of Asian countries.” He presented the results of his research at the annual conference of the Kentucky Economic Association.

In the process of conducting research, Berger found that he “liked the idea of creating new knowledge.” As with science, he added, “others can build off your work. Eventually, it can make a difference.” The experience became a defining moment.

“It made clear to me that this was what I wanted to do as a career,” Berger recalls.

Berger says he’s enjoyed the liberal arts at Transylvania and now is ready to focus all of his attention on the field of economics—and his dissertation. The economics major will soon begin a Ph.D. at Indiana University, where he will receive a full ride and a stipend for 20 hours a week as a teaching assistant.

What is he most looking forward to? “The rigor,” he replies. Spoken like a true Pioneer.