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Dean's Report - Fall 2014

Dear Friends,

It has been an extraordinary year here at Florida State. We have suffered loss with the departure of President Eric Barron, hope for the future with the appointment of President John Thrasher, and most recently the tragedy of the shooting of three students in Strozier Library. Our students, faculty, staff, and administrators are resilient, and there is no doubt in my mind that the university will continue to flourish with excellence in teaching and research. The college reflects this dynamism as we build on our strengths to create world-class programs that address critical issues all modern societies are facing.
First are the challenges posed by an aging population facing increasing costs of health care, relatively fewer workers to fund social security, and a burgeoning need for assisted living. We are addressing these problems with the creation of a new Center for Public Policy for Successful Aging, which will complement our already impressive teaching and research capacity in health and aging. We have been authorized to hire three senior scholars to help build this interdisciplinary center to explore the critical issues associated with the graying of the population.

Connected to such quality-of-life issues is our focus on the way they are fundamentally determined by personal relationships and the place of the individual within the community. These factors are affected, of course, by the institutions that influence national prosperity, individual economic opportunity and security, adequacy of health care, quality of the environment, public safety, and a host of other issues. These are crucial aspects of modern society tackled by the ongoing and growing study of markets and institutions in our Department of Economics.

A little history should put this in greater context for you. After World War II, economics underwent a dramatic transformation, incorporating sophisticated mathematical models to reach a more rigorous analysis of economic issues. The advances generated by this move to “economic science” have been impressive but have also led to a more abstract way of looking at economics, often ignoring the day-to-day realities of important human institutions: markets, contracts, families, voluntary organizations, and the relationships embedded within business organizations. The last quarter century or so has seen a shift back toward reintroducing these institutions into economic reasoning. Several Nobel Prizes have been awarded for these efforts, including one to James Buchanan, a former FSU faculty member.

Our economics department has long been at the forefront of the study in markets and institutions with a strong teaching and research program in this area. Several distinguished faculty members who have been with the department for many years are recognized for their valuable work on the importance of institutions in the functioning of the economy, attracting more scholars to our faculty and graduate programs.

New sources of funding in the last few years have made it possible for us to continue and to strengthen our longtime focus on the fundamental issues that affect human welfare. We have now been authorized to hire a senior scholar in this area who will further increase our national reputation in this field of economics. Building on our strengths in the context of university priorities will guide our expansion in the coming years. These are exciting times.

With very best wishes for the holiday season and the coming year,

David W. Rasmussen|