Fresh Faculty of the Week: Prakarsh Singh
Issue   |   Wed, 11/02/2011 - 01:51

An Indian-born London School of Economics (LSE) graduate, Professor Prakarsh Singh filled in the much-needed role of the College’s development economist, bringing with him a whole host of diverse and socially conscious ideas, along with an engaging teaching style. The Student talks to Professor Singh about his intersts and his impressions of Amherst.

Tell us about yourself. What did you do, and where, before Amherst?
I completed my Ph.D. in Economics from the LSE and before that I did my bachelor’s degree also from the same college. Before that I was in India. I grew up in different places around India, primarily Punjab and Mumbai.

How did you come to chose Amherst, and what factored into that decision?
I knew Amherst was a top liberal arts college while applying and found that it gave me the best blend of teaching and research. I love teaching, and they wanted a development economist, so it worked out really well for both the College and me. When I came here for the interview, things went really well, and I really liked the atmosphere. The people were warm and welcoming. I had lunch with some students, and I saw they were both interested in the material, as well as interested in doing social work. For me, this combined perfectly both intellectual spirit, as well as the spirit of wanting to do something good for society.

Could you tell us more about your research, and how you came to be involved in it?
My research falls into two broad areas: [the first being] child malnutrition and the different ways in which we can incentivize the state or the parents to reduce malnutrition in children. I think this research has important policy implications, as close to 1.5 million kids die every year of malnutrition in India, despite India’s spectacular economic growth. My other research interest is conflict and how policymakers can be better prepared for conflict.
I got interested in conflict because my teacher at LSE taught me a course about it. For malnutrition, it was more about a personal journey through the poorer regions in my city when I came to realize that a lot of work needed to be done to improve the livelihoods there, which many economists didn’t focus on.

How is Amherst different, as a community and workplace, from the other places you’ve been or worked in?
Amherst is different firstly because it’s a campus university, as opposed to LSE, which is a cluster of buildings in the heart of London. It was a concrete jungle, as opposed to here, where it’s a real jungle! Here you meet more students at a higher frequency, and the quality of interaction is better. You get to know the students and your own colleagues more personally, and the atmosphere is not as cutthroat and competitive. Here, you try and inspire and motivate. You don’t lecture at [students], but try and involve them, which is important for improving the quality of learning in any educational community.

What is your impression of Amherst community in general and has it changed since your first impression of it?
Well, after the interview I formed a great impression of faculty and students. It has evolved since then, because you get to know specific people much more and their research, as well as what students like to learn. I’m trying to evolve myself as well. It is a give and take process, and I have been learning so much from the people around me. It’s a great opportunity to meet so many types of people as well. While [the College] is not as diverse in terms of nationalities as LSE, where half the student body was from outside the U.K., the range of opinions here show that there is curiosity and openness to other cultures and other points of view. I haven’t felt like an outsider.

Related to that, how was the transition from a British academic and social environment to Amherst?
It’s been easier than what I expected, to be honest. Obviously the extent of that comfort that I’ve felt is directly proportional to the ease with which students have been open in interacting with me, and I have tried to make my classes more interactive so by and large, I think it’s been a smooth transition. I’m staying in faculty housing at Merrill, so that’s a big help and convenience to me. My colleagues are very supportive as well, and if I need something for teaching or research, I find they always come through for me.

One final question, on a lighter note— what do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time?

Theoretical spare time, then.
Theoretically, I would really like to go out on excursions and trips around the city and the town, but I haven’t done that as much of that as I would like to, yet. I like to play chess and table tennis as well, but as an assistant professor, it is very difficult for me to find spare time.

Neena (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/03/2011 - 08:29


vinita (not verified) says:
Mon, 12/05/2011 - 04:43

Congrats! Good transition from LSE to Amherst.