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Time Passes but Memories Prevail

It cannot be twenty-nine years since the first Student Economic Review was launched, largely thanks to the efforts of John Fingleton, a precocious young JS economics student!  But it is indeed and we are now celebrating the 30th issue this year.  What a vehicle it has been for me to meet and work with so many bright and innovative undergraduate economics students.  Relying on teaching alone for such contact would not nearly suffice.

While the core of the SER for many years was the Review itself it soon widened out to include debates, first against UCD, then Oxford and Cambridge and more recently Harvard and Yale.  These debates are now almost as much a part of the SER year as the journal itself, played to packed audiences in the GMB. And to think that the Oxbridge debates were started by a young JS economics student, Vinay Nair, against the President's wishes!

The debates are held jointly with the Hist and the Phil, two of Ireland's, let alone Trinity's, premier debating societies. A reflection of how highly regarded the SER debates are, is that both societies each year compete fiercely to host them.

I have always been of the belief that economists should not leave the middle ground between economics and politics to others but be involved fully in this space. And, through both the written and spoken word.  Economic policy is inextricably linked with politics and the solutions to any of the great problems of the day if they are to be effective must take due cognisance of this reality. Even though more mathematical and quantitative than the other social sciences, economics is still a social science with its central focus the improvement of the economy and society which it ultimately must serve.

There also have been Workshops organised in most recent years.  This year though was exceptional, with the two lectures given by Nobel Prize winners in economics, the first co-hosted with the Hist and the second with Trinity Economic Forum.  It was a joy for me to watch on TV the 2015 Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton receive his prize in Stockholm knowing that just a few weeks earlier he had addressed the Hist/SER workshop. It was also fascinating to observe a few months later the 2002 Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith mingle for an hour or so with students after his talk in Trinity.

The core of the SER though is the Review.  Each year students compete to have their essays accepted, their first exposure to the 'cruel' world of academic publication!  And each year we have many very fine undergraduate essays published in the SER, an accurate reflection of the very high quality of many of the undergraduate economics students at Trinity we are privileged to teach and get to know each year.  I look forward very much to seeing this year's selection, all chosen exclusively by the three student members of the editorial team. The publication is unique, produced as it is by JS students each year, with the committee from the previous year always ready to provide advice when needed.

It would be invidious to mention any previous members of the Committees, as there are far too many people involved, all who have had extraordinarily successful careers since.  By the time you will read this you will, through the Launch, have got a taste of the extent to which this is true. Some of them have been extremely generous to the Department but thanks for this is for another occasion.

For now it is important to mention a few past students, who predated 1987, who have made the SER financially self-sufficient.  Harry Hartford has to take pride of place with his generous funding of the SER over ten years.  Alan Gray, Kyran McStay and Conor Kileen, who predated Harry as a student, also deserve our rich gratitude for their funding in recent years.  Vinay Nair, who as mentioned defied 'his' President, has also kindly funded the debates for many years and our most recent graduate Aoife Cunningham provided funding almost before she received her first pay package! And many others contributed in kind, such as for example being guest speaker at the launches or as a judge at the various debates.  And others contributed very generously indeed to the department through the Grattan Scholarship scheme. 

For a while I wondered was the SER committee to be dominated by male students, as seven out of the eight in some recent years were male.  This was all turned on its head this year, with seven of the eight committee members being female.  They, like all other committees were a pleasure to work with.  From the first meeting in early October, when each committee looks awestruck by what lies ahead, it is fascinating to see the year evolve to the point where the enormity of what they have achieved is only finally realised when the first printed issues of the Review are held firmly in their hands.

Thankfully there are several members of the current staff to continue with this great student project, so that this 30th issue is far from the last.  They have already been involved and have greatly assisted for several years. 

A reflection of the regard which students hold for the SER over the years is the huge number of former Committee members who have returned for the occasion of the Launch of this the 30th issue.  Over half have come from overseas, some from the US or further afield.  Many friendships established through the SER have lasted to this day, and in some cases ended in marriage!

It has been a great privilege for me to have been involved with and to have met so many wonderful students over the years through the vehicle of the SER.

John O'Hagan

President SER and Professor of Economics, March 2016