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Economics chair to head social sciences


By Hannah Todd     4/6/16 1:17am

Antonio Merlo, the department chair of economics at Rice University, has been appointed dean of Rice’s School of Social Sciences effective July 1, according to an announcement from the provost’s office.

As dean, Merlo will supervise the departments of anthropology, economics, linguistics, political science, psychology, sociology and sport management. He will also direct interdisciplinary programs, including cognitive sciences, managerial studies and policy studies, as well as the school’s research institutes, centers and programs, such as the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, the Social Sciences Research Institute and the Master of Global Affairs and Master of Energy Economics degree programs.

According to Merlo’s website, he holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and social sciences from Italy’s Bocconi University and a Ph.D. in economics from New York University. Prior to coming to Rice in 2014, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Minnesota and New York University, and has held numerous visiting positions throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Merlo is an elected fellow of the Econometric Society, according to his website. He also serves as a research fellow or research associate in several influential institutes, and his work on political economy, public economics, empirical microeconomics and bargaining theory and applications has been published in leading economic journals.

Since coming to Rice, Merlo has led efforts to create a new professional master’s degree in energy economics, added an endowed chair position and recruited several highly respected economists to the department.

In his new role, Merlo said he is most excited for the numerous components of the position and the quality of the Rice University faculty and students with whom he will be working.

“As dean of the School of Social Sciences, I am excited to be a member and a leader of the school’s extraordinary faculty and representative of its academic priorities,” Merlo said. “I am also looking forward to contribute to shape the school’s educational priorities in order to provide the best educational programs and environment for our remarkable students.”

When he first arrived at Rice as the economics department chair, Merlo went to each college to speak with economics faculty and students about their perspectives on the department. As dean of social sciences, Merlo said he continues to be interested in understanding the goals of the students and faculty he will be supervising in order to best meet their needs and interests.

“My first goal as dean is to meet with the social sciences faculty and students to understand their priorities and aspirations for each individual unit and program as well as for the school as a whole,” Merlo said. “[I want to] share my vision with them and reach a collective understanding of how we can advance the school to an even higher level of excellence and impact,” Merlo said.

As dean, Merlo will be able to encourage more progress in other social sciences departments, just as he has implemented successfully in the economics department.

“In the past two years, we have seen the economics department experience substantial growth,” Merlo said. “I am delighted to have the opportunity to take the momentum to the next level and work collaboratively with all departments, institutes, centers and programs in the School of Social Sciences and develop exciting, impactful initiatives which will contribute to raise the school’s profile.”

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