Professor Chris Laincz Headed East Before Heading Home

Story Highlights

  • Early in his career, Chris Laincz lived in Jakarta, Indonesia where he advised the government on economic policy.

  • As director, he has attracted the largest class, 19 students, to the LeBow Ph.D. Program.

Chris Laincz wonders if the Godzilla movies he loved to watch as a kid led to his fascination with all things Japanese. It’s a strong possibility says the Drexel alum who is now an associate professor of economics and the director of the LeBow Ph.D. Program.

Shortly after his second co-op assignment as an undergrad, Laincz decided engineering wasn’t for him – “it was too constraining” – so he changed his major to international area studies and started classes in Japanese. By the time he graduated in 1991, he had completed nine terms of the language, two in Chinese and “many political science classes during the time of tremendous growth in Asia. It was all so fascinating to me.” It was no surprise that after graduating from Drexel, Laincz headed east to Japan to teach English.

He shrugs at the question regarding his fluency. “I was competent. I could read a sports page.” That job was the beginning of a career that would take him around the world – more than once – before landing him back at his alma mater.

After his stint in Japan where he met his future wife, Tamiko, Laincz returned to the United States with an interest in international development and a full scholarship to Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs where he earned his master’s in economic policy and international development. A summer internship in a small international development company in Boston encouraged him to consider pursuing a doctoral program, but not before he decided he needed more industry experience as an economist. He consulted for the World Bank and later at the Harvard Institute for International Development where he traveled to Jakarta, Indonesia, to advise the government in economic policy for two years.

“My wife and I really enjoyed Jakarta,” Laincz says. “Living in a developing country was interesting. Jakarta has a deep, rich culture. Great weather. And the food was so, so good.” Unfortunately, the country suffered from a national financial crisis in 1997, which was absolutely fascinating for the economist, but not a great place to live anymore. A year later, they headed home where he began his doctoral studies at Duke.

“I had several job offers after Duke, including an offer to move to Iraq to rebuild the central bank,” Laincz says. “But our daughter was almost four years old by then. I would have been so stressed living there – let’s just say I’m a very protective dad – and we wanted to be closer to home. [Laincz is from suburban Kutztown, Pa.] Drexel was in an upward trajectory emphasizing research, and I thought George [Tsetsekos] was doing great work as the dean of the College. I decided to come here.”

Since 2004, Laincz has juggled his time at LeBow between teaching classes, both on the undergraduate and graduate level, and conducting his research mostly on R&D competition and economic growth. On average, he teaches five classes a year, such as Macro Principles and Intermediate Macro plus an Introduction to Economic Policy class for freshmen, which he counts among his favorites for his ability to influence younger students and advise them about future careers in economics. While he likes teaching – “students are rewarding” — and he has won numerous teaching awards, his passion is with his research, which is why it wasn’t a stretch for him to accept the position of director of the LeBow Ph.D. Program last year.

A Ph.D. Program on the Rise

In the short amount of time Laincz has overseen the program, he has enrolled LeBow’s largest Ph.D. class, 19 students, a number he is excited about, but hopes to increase in the coming years.

“Having students to collaborate with improves everybody’s research productivity in the College,” Laincz says. “Producing great researchers who go on to conduct excellent research in other research institutions is the best way to build LeBow’s reputation.”

Funding is a critical aspect of the maintaining a competitive Ph.D. Program, so Laincz recently launched LeBow’s Ph.D. Fund, hoping to find support for the program.

For now, Laincz will continue teaching, researching and traveling the world for research opportunities and economic conferences. In his off time, he enjoys playing tennis, watching the Eagles and Union play and spending time with his family.

Guess where he travels every summer?