An International Austrian: A Conversation with Carmen Elena Dorobăț
THE AUSTRIAN: How did you first become familiar with the Mises Institute?
Back in 2009, in my second year of undergraduate studies, I took an elective course in comparative economic policies. It happened to be taught by Vlad Topan, the president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute Romania, and a senior lecturer at my university. The syllabus contained readings from Mises and Rothbard, such as Economic Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow, and What Has Government Done to Our Money?, and a long list of links to the Mises Institute website. Until that day, I had seriously doubted my choice of major, but this fortunate encounter changed everything. I began to read the website regularly, and listen to the lectures, and economics finally started to make sense. Later that year, Vlad gave me my first copy of Human Action. That’s how it all started.
MI: Why did you decide to pursue an academic career?
CED: A career in education was on the radar from the beginning of my undergraduate courses. I had been influenced by my father, who had tried to leave Romania as a young man and study philosophy abroad, but was not able to because of the communist regime. And after I read Mises and Rothbard, who have repeatedly stressed the importance of ideas and economic education, I really wanted to make my own contribution to this goal, just like Vlad had done for me with that class. Now I believe I have made the right decision. I greatly enjoy teaching, and interacting with students is perhaps the most exciting part of the job. But I have also been fortunate to meet outstanding professors who have shown me how rewarding research can be.
MI: What convinced you to apply to become a Mises Fellow?
CED: The fellowship was a tremendous opportunity to work for a few months at the Mises Institute, and to read economic literature that was otherwise unavailable. Most importantly, it was a great chance to do research under the supervision of professors Joseph Salerno and Mark Thornton, as well as meet the rest of the Mises Institute’s faculty during the Rothbard Graduate Seminar and Mises University. So I did not have to think twice before applying, I knew that it was too good an opportunity to miss. Even so, when I arrived here for the first time in 2011, I was overwhelmed by the warmth and care of the staff, and by how quickly we all became good friends. Each year I have been a Fellow has been one of the most important and formative experiences, both professionally and socially.
MI: What was your favorite part of being a Fellow?
CED: The benefits of the fact that Professor Salerno’s office is just down the hall, and that his door is always open for the fellows cannot be stressed enough. He has this great capacity to understand your ideas even before they have become clear to you, and he can guide your research with just the right reading recommendations. We also had weekly research seminars where all the Fellows would present their ongoing work, and bounce around ideas, and we were fortunate enough to read and discuss Professor Salerno’s working papers. By the end of the summer, we could tell that our research process had become more structured, more focused, and even that we had new energy for new projects. No other academic experience has had this kind of impact on my development.
MI: What topics do you now focus on in your academic work?
CED: So far, I have done most of my research in international trade, both on theory and policy. And through the collaboration with Professor Guido Hülsmann (at the University of Angers, France), whom I met at the Mises Institute during my fellowship and who became my PhD adviser, my work has gradually expanded to incorporate monetary theory and international finance. For example, my PhD thesis analyzes the Cantillon effects of inflation in a global context, looking into the impact of monetary policies on trade, finance, and the distribution of wealth. I also currently work as a lecturer in international business at Coventry University in the UK, where I teach my students about international trade, globalization, and the challenges of operating in global markets. But in general, wherever my particular research interests take me, I always return to Mises’s works in search for the grounding framework.
MI: How have your experiences with the Mises Institute affected your plans for the future and future academic work?
CED: Through the summer fellowships, and the mentorship of Professors Salerno and Hülsmann, the Mises Institute has become my intellectual alma mater. The support network of peers and faculty that the Institute makes available every year, through its resident fellowships and conferences, was crucial to my academic efforts as a student, and now as a teacher. I learned what good research is, and how to strive to achieve it. I learned what a good teacher should be, and I can only hope to be half as good as my teachers. I am humbled and grateful by every renewed opportunity to be part of this wonderful community of scholars.