Economics alumnus scores in microeconomics—and soccer league theory

July 18, 2023

Studying economics helped new Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) alumnus Russell Zhang discover a passion for building microeconomics models. Now, he is graduating with a 4.15 cumulative grade point average, which lands him in the top five percent among his peers.

A recipient of the Undergraduate Dean’s Convocation Medal, Zhang's academic excellence has also consistently scored him a spot on the President’s Honour Roll and Dean’s Honour Roll, in addition to receiving numerous scholarships and awards throughout his studies.

Zhang’s favourite economics course during his undergraduate degree at FASS was ECON 402: Advanced Microeconomic Theory, taught by professor and department chair Anke Kessler. As a major assignment, the course tasked students with building their own microeconomic model.

As a big soccer fan, Zhang decided to apply game theory to model The Super League, a new European football competition proposed as an alternative to FIFA. His favourite team, CF Real Madrid, is a founding member of The Super League, but Zhang’s original research shows that the new league’s economic model is doomed to fail. 

“My model showed that the failure of The Super League is due to asymmetric information and bargaining cost that happens in the real world,” says Zhang. “The parties with private information always want to misrepresent their unobservable parameters to get more compensation from the club that wants to implement The Super League. This is why the parties fail to achieve a mutually acceptable contract and an efficient outcome is not implemented.”

When asked what it takes to maintain a 4.15 GPA, Zhang laughs and jokingly replies, “studying and not sleeping at all!”

Although Zhang assures us that he gets enough sleep, he does credit his hard work and self-motivation with his academic success. “I’ve been focusing just on this one thing: studying hard. Compared to other of my friends and classmates, I do spend more time studying for the exam or the course material,” he says.

When asked about his advice for incoming economics students, Zhang says that the most important skill students should learn in university is the power of self-motivation, because that’s where the difference between success and failure is largely determined.  

“Self-motivation is really important because no one's going to push you to study in university," Zhang explains. “If you don’t do the homework, the professor doesn’t necessarily care. Students should really know and understand why they are there to learn. That’s the most important thing—just keep pushing yourself.” 

Zhang has only one regret about his time as an economics student: not taking on additional opportunities in the department.

"One of the things I regret is not doing research assistant work,” says Zhang. However, it is not too late for Zhang, who received multiple offers from top-ranking economics programs across the country. He is excited to gain a deeper understanding in everyday applications of economics in graduate school—and try his hand at research assistant work.

Before embarking on his first semester of graduate studies, Zhang hopes to take some time off to relax and reflect on his outstanding accomplishments.