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Guidance of instructors leads economics honours grad to success and top graduate school

October 05, 2021

Although economics honours student Bryce Balanuik convocates this week, he is wasting no time in getting started on the next chapter of his academic journey. Currently enrolled in the highly competitive master's program in economics at the University of Toronto, Balanuik credits his success to the support of his instructors.

When he joined Simon Fraser University (SFU), Balanuik planned on becoming an accountant but decided to keep his options open when his interest in economics was piqued. He became fascinated with the subject when he attended Harvard University economist Raj Chetty's BMO Public Lecture during his first year in 2016. Chetty's talk on using data-driven insights to guide policy making opened his eyes to how economics could create social change.

"I was fascinated by the talk because I had a long-standing interest in government policies," says Balanuik. "To see how he used data to generate meaningful insights on policy design for improving equality of opportunity was influential to say the least." After his subsequent enrollment in ECON 182: Poverty and Inequality, it solidified his interest in the area of study, leading him to chart a new path and delve deeper into economics. 

The support and tutelage of faculty members from the Department of Economics presented a major turning point in Balanuik's academic path. He cites professor John Knowles as the reason behind his decision to join the honours program in economics. Recognizing Balanuik's academic potential, Knowles not only nominated him for the Peter Kennedy Undergraduate Award in Macroeconomics, he also provided words of guidance and encouraged Balanuik to pursue graduate school.  

"I'd played with the idea before about graduate school but I made up my mind after professor Knowles had a conversation with me about seriously pursuing it and gave advice on how to best prepare myself," says Balanuik. "As a result of his guidance, I decided to take the math-intensive route of the honours program as it would help strengthen my graduate school applications." 

Working as a research assistant for assistant professor Kevin Schnepel was another highlight of Balanuik's undergraduate experience. He relished at the opportunity to assist on numerous research projects examining topics like the Manitoba Basic Annual Income Experiment and safety responses to COVID-19 in US correctional facilities. Under the guidance of Schnepel, the position also provided Balanuik the perfect learning environment to develop his research experience and technical expertise—skills that are already proving to be useful in his current graduate studies. 

After completing the master's program, Balanuik plans to pursue a doctoral degree in economics and eventually a career in policy research. All of this wouldn't have been possible without the support he received at SFU for which Balanuik feels immensely grateful. "I want to thank my family for all their support, and the economics department for making me feel welcome throughout the entirety of my undergraduate education."

In the lead-up to our Fall 2021 Convocation, we'll be sharing stories from across our eight faculties about some of our amazing graduands. 

SFU’s Fall 2021 Convocation will be held Oct. 5-8. It will be the university’s first in-person convocation since 2019. The ceremonies will be webcast on SFU’s YouTube channel for those wanting to join in from home and around the world. For more information about SFU’s Fall 2021 Convocation, visit http://www.sfu.ca/convocation.html. Read more about our exceptional graduands here.

Be sure to share your convocation experience on social media by using the #MySFUGrad hashtag.