Tisha Nakao Emerson

A College of Social Sciences alumna known for her research on the gender gap in economics spoke glowingly of her undergraduate education at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa during a podcast from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Tisha Lin Nakao Emerson, a professor of economics at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, was interviewed on the bank’s October 30, “Women in Economics” podcast.

Emerson credits her former UH Mānoa professors for igniting her interest in the field and switching her major from mathematics. “In my second semester, I found myself in an economics course, the Principles of Microeconomics. And I was just so captivated by everything that my professor, James Mak, talked about,” she recalls. “He was wonderful and I felt every day like I was sitting on the edge of my seat; I was just so engaged.”

“And I saw how economics could use the math that I loved, so it had the reasoning and the elegance of math and logic, but it also had applications to important real-world questions. I knew almost immediately that that’s what I was going to do.”

Emerson praised UH Mānoa faculty for their support and encouragement, including emeriti professors Mak, Sumner La Croix and Carl Bonham, economics professor and director of the UH Economic Research Organization.

More about Tisha Nakao Emerson

Born on Hawaiʻi Island, the 1989 graduate of Konawaena High School was awarded the Regents Scholarship and enrolled at UH Mānoa, earning her BA in economics, with distinction, in 1993. She later earned a master’s and PhD in economics from USC.

She is currently the holder of the Ben H. Williams Professorship in Economics at Baylor.

Emerson’s 2017 article in the Southern Economic Journal, “The Gender Gap in Economics Degrees: An Investigation of the Role Model and Quantitative Requirements Hypotheses,” looked at the role model effect of women faculty and quantitative requirements on the female proportion of economics majors.