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Professor Profile: Can Erbil

A New Economics Professor With An International Perspective

Heights Editor

Published: Sunday, November 11, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

It’s not often that a student encounters a professor from Turkey who has a slight German accent when he speaks English, along with a love for the Italian language and making espresso in the comfort of his office. Yet these are just a few qualities of Can Erbil, adjunct associate professor of economics at Boston College.

Erbil officially joined the BC community as a full-time professor this fall, yet he is no stranger to the Heights. After attending a German high school, where he learned to speak English, and receiving his undergraduate degree from Bogazici University in Istanbul, Erbil came to the U.S. in August of 1993, when he was 23 years old. His first stop? Our very own BC campus, to work on his master’s degree and Ph.D in economics.

"I came to Boston College, and the Ph.D. program was very competitive," Erbil said. "We had a lot of Turkish students by then, so I was not alone." His Turkish classmates helped guide him through the process of learning "what to do, what not to do.

"I was very impressed with the international student body here, especially among the graduate students," he added. Erbil served as the vice president of the Graduate International Student Association (GISA) at BC for several years, and then transitioned to vice president of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) for about five more years. As part of the Ph.D. program, Erbil began as a teaching assistant and then a teaching fellow, during which time he won two teaching awards—a sign that teaching was definitely something he wanted to pursue.

Erbil taught classes at Suffolk University, Harvard University, and then Brandeis University, where he remained for 11 years and taught over 2,000 students. He was a senior lecturer at the International Business School at Brandeis and also worked as a senior scientist at the Heller School of Social Policy and Management.

"I love teaching and keep in touch with most of [my students]," he said. "They can be my LinkedIn friends while they are my students, and once they graduate they can graduate to Facebook." Erbil tries to connect his current students who are looking for jobs with his past students, and he feels a great sense of pride when his students go on to become professors or successfully find careers in economics.

Erbil currently teaches an introductory course in microeconomics—principles of micro—and intermediate macro theory. "Last year, I saw the opening at Boston College and thought, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to go back to BC, where I started?’ Twenty years after I started at BC I came back, and I’m very happy here," he said. "It’s like I never left." Erbil specializes in international trade and development economics, focusing on application rather than theory.

While teaching is clearly one of his passions, Erbil’s experience extends far beyond the classroom. He previously worked for the World Bank in Washington, D.C. in the international trade division and was a consultant for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Erbil is currently a consultant for the World Bank for services trade, a relatively new project that focuses on the trading of services rather than goods. In addition, Erbil has been involved in EcoMod, a Brussels-based economic modeling society, since 1999. He helped provide workshops and government consulting in countries such as Bahrain, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

"With EcoMod, I am now the director of the economic modeling school, so I organize with EcoMod economic modeling courses all over the world," he explained. He has taught at three fixed courses every year in Brussels, Singapore, and Washington, D.C. "We have one very big economic modeling conference that I have to organize with my colleagues," he added. "Last year, we were in Spain. This coming summer it will be in Prague, which is a very beautiful city. About 250 economic modelers will come from all over the world."

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