Brandeis International Business School

Caroline Kollau, PhD’99: ‘The Brandeis community is right there with you’

Carolyn KollauWhy did you want to earn a PhD in international economics and finance?

I always had the desire to get my PhD at some point, but I felt I needed a bit of work experience first to help me focus on what I really wanted. I focused on institutions that were well known and had an excellent academic standing and a good reputation for teaching as well as research, and Brandeis was definitely among them. It was large enough to have an excellent reputation and academic standing, but small enough for professors to be very involved and focused on their students.

At the time, Brandeis had just decided to start a PhD in International Economics and Finance, so I was one of the first eight students in the program. What an adventure that was! The program was set up well, and we were blessed with excellent professors, but it also evolved around us. The school was open to our feedback and ideas, and this made the program even better. The business school expanded quickly and we had students come in from all over the world — all highly motivated and all with their own qualities to add to the program.

What was the academic and social environment at Brandeis like?

I loved the five years I spent at Brandeis. It was a very warm environment with a lot of interaction. I knew all of my professors and could always pop in for questions or a chat. I tutored for quite a few classes, mostly in Econometrics and Macroeconomics. My fellow students and I became close soon after we started as the pioneers of the PhD program. We studied long and hard but also had a lot of fun together. We looked out for each other and helped each other along whenever we could.

How did the PhD program here help you meet your goals?

The program’s relatively smaller size is very beneficial, allowing for more interactions with the faculty and a more close-knit group of students and alumni. I am personally grateful to all the professors and especially my advisor, Professor George Hall, for being not only encouraging, but also very open-minded about what I wanted to do with my research and my career. For example, during my job market, I received offers from policy, academic, and private sector places. I never felt any pressure from the faculty to choose one path over the other. Instead, knowing that my lifelong dream is to help better economic policies and the lives of ordinary people, they wholeheartedly supported my choice to join the IMF.

Can you describe a particular learning experience?

Our professors and the school worked hard to arrange internships for their PhD students. I spent a summer at the Institute for International Economics while a fellow student interned at the International Monetary Fund, so we lived together in Washington, D.C. that summer and both learned a lot. The work we did greatly added to both our economic and research skills.

I also felt that the international environment at Brandeis provided an excellent basis for my future career. I have always been internationally oriented, and curious as to how others work and live. Being surrounded by friends from literally all over the world was a great asset.

How did your Brandeis experience prepare you for your career?

My education at Brandeis prepared me well. I acquired the economic and financial knowledge that I needed, but I also learned to look at things from an international perspective. I feel my education improved my diplomatic and problem-solving skills in that it taught me to always consider more than one angle and keep an open mind.

What should prospective students know about the International Business School?

Brandeis International Business School is an excellent school. Students, faculty and staff care about each other and about the university. Brandeis is not overwhelmingly large, which makes for good opportunities to really get to know your fellow students and the faculty. You will be challenged, and hopefully that’s exactly what you’re looking for. And remember, you’re not alone — the Brandeis community is right there with you.

PhD in International Economics and Finance
Class of 1999

Director International Market Regulation and Trade Policy, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Undergraduate degree
Economics, Albert Ludwigs University

Home Country
The Netherlands

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