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Visiting Fellow Profile: Development Economist Margaret Triyana

Matthew Macke '18 • April 28, 2017

Visiting Fellow Profile: Development Economist Margaret Triyana Margaret (Maggie) Triyana found a home away from home as a Kellogg Institute visiting fellow for the 2016–17 academic year. An assistant professor of economics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, she is extending her time at Notre Dame by accepting a two-year appointment to teach in the new Keough School of Global Affairs, beginning when the School opens in fall 2017.
Triyana was born and raised in Indonesia before coming to the United States for college. At the University of Chicago, she studied math and economics as an undergrad before going on to earn her PhD in public policy. Today her focus is on applied microeconomics—“development economics with a focus on health,” she specifies.

Can you briefly update us on your current work at the Kellogg Institute?
I focus on Southeast Asia, so the bulk of my work has been on Indonesia. One project that’s about to wrap up is on the economic effects of early-life exposures to air pollution coming from the Indonesian forest fires. I have a new project in the Philippines that is similar but studies how severe typhoons and government assistance affect long-term outcomes.

What drew you to this area of study?
I grew up in Indonesia, so I was naturally drawn to Indonesia as a research subject. Beyond that, health is a serious concern in developing countries. It plays into a lot of different facets of life when you consider what’s lost when a person becomes sick. One’s health can affect a person for a long time and impact their ability to work and become educated. For example, I have an ongoing project where we’re working with the state to target adolescents in Indonesia for tobacco control. If you intervene early on to stop whatever is negatively affecting someone’s health, like a thirteen-year-old smoking, then you’re going to see the benefits for a long, long time.

What impact do you hope your research will have?
Ultimately, I hope to influence policy. That is the arena where a lot of these issues will move and really affect a large portion of the population. The Philippines has around 90 million people and Indonesia has 200 million people, so there is a potential for a tremendous amount of good to be done. As a researcher, I like to work on policy-relevant subjects so that there are applications in the real world—applications that hopefully improve approaches to healthcare and lead to better outcomes in general.

What have you found unique about the Kellogg Institute?
The structure here at Kellogg works well. It’s a very collegial environment that helps you integrate into wherever you need to be in order to get the best input for your research. In addition to the community at Kellogg, I go over to the economics department for all sorts of resources and assistance. It’s really easy to collaborate with people, just from working in close proximity to them. I think these interactions are helpful for more than just my current project—I can see them broadening my research agenda going forward.

One of the things that also is unique about Kellogg is the fact that it is within Notre Dame, a place where you can see the influence of the Catholic Church all around. For example, the Ford Program [housed within the Kellogg Institute] has a strong network in the developing world based on long-standing connections where the Congregation of the Holy Cross is present. They have been in some countries for many years and really know the local context. These interpersonal and international connections contribute to the Institute’s growing strength in international development.


 

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