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Equity Through Economics

May 9, 2023 Erica Hulse
Anna Hylen

“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” shared Anna Hylen, College of Business and Department of Economics Outstanding Graduate and selected Commencement Student Speaker for the University of Louisville’s May 2023 afternoon commencement ceremonies.

When Hylen first came to the University of Louisville, she was focused on earning a degree in social work. However, she realized an even more powerful avenue for helping to build an equitable society – after one specific course. “I thought, ‘There has to be a way to tackle these social problems at their roots,’ and when I took macroeconomics, that was something that I saw the potential for. Economists, and the research they contribute to, create solutions for social problems by getting to the root of what the problems are, [and] how [those solutions] can be used to create a more equitable society.”

Initially faced with academic challenges in her program, Hylen was able to turn things around by asking questions and discussing course topics with her professors. She developed strong connections with them, and some have become her professional mentors. Along with her first economics professor, Dr. John P. Nelson, whom she explained was the driving force behind her decision to switch her major from social work to economics, she also shared the impact Dr. Beth Munnich has made on her academic career and how she has inspired her future work. “I have worked [with Dr. Munnich] as a research assistant…she is amazing. I would consider her a role model as well.”

With a growing desire to aid others through economics, as Hylen progressed through her program, she chose to pursue an internship to learn how she could better the lives of others through her chosen career field. “I had an internship with a local impact investing firm called Access Ventures, and I worked under part of their [business] called Render Capital, [which creates] seed funding for local startups that are socially oriented.” That experience brought together her passion for social work and economics in a powerful way. “This is why I wanted to become an economist,” she explained. “I didn’t even know that was an avenue – impact investing, essentially, but I think that was a dream realized for me, and I took a lot away from that internship.”

As Hylen approached graduation, she was surprised to be contacted by UofL staff who informed her of her selection to represent her graduating class as Commencement Student Speaker at the upcoming May ceremony. “It was shock, I felt something drop in my stomach because I immediately envisioned myself onstage, having to be in front of several thousand people, and that was scary, but I’m also not someone who shies away from things outside of my comfort zone.” She also shared her appreciation and excitement for the opportunity to connect with her classmates authentically during her commencement address. “I hope that I can make the crowd laugh. I’m someone who considers myself pretty humorous, and so I want it to be an engaging speech that’s lighthearted. I’m excited to give a speech that just resonates with a lot of my peers, and that’s what I’m looking to give.” Dedicated to continuing to learn after graduation, Hylen plans to spend the next year in Morocco pursuing another passion: learning Arabic and immersing herself in another culture. “I think that my perspective on life has been heavily influenced, and my understanding of economics has been heavily influenced by living in the United States, where…liberalism is the norm for our economy. I would like to see what it’s like in other economies, and so that ties in both my passion for languages and my interest in economics and how it influences us at a personal level.”