Anne Duchene gave up an apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower to come to Drexel LeBow, and she has no regrets. “We still can’t believe how big our house is compared to our shoebox Parisian apartment,” she says. She and her husband and two children now reside in Collingswood, N.J., and love living in such a quaint town that’s still so close to a big city.
“My husband and I lived in Paris for so long, we’re through with the city life for now. For us the suburban American life is a nice change.”
After finishing her Ph.D. in France in 2004, she wanted to discover a “new world,” she says, and live a different experience. “Being in academia, it was logical for me to come to the United States, where I knew the research environment would be stimulating.” She came here two years later.
Duchene, an assistant professor of economics, is working on two projects: studying the strategic reasons why venture capitalists often fire founders once their startup starts to grow; and looking into insurance on patent litigation, which covers the legal costs of patent infringement lawsuits.
“It sounds dull, but I love economics just because it is everywhere, and it helps figure out how the world works. What I love about the research of economics is the mix between the rigorousness of theoretical modeling and the curiosity and creativity it requires. My job is to ask interesting questions and find ways to answer them… I feel very lucky to have that freedom.”
Duchene says she finds that many things are different here than in her home country. “The culture, the way of life, the social relations, they are not the same. For example, here it seems that people are constantly trying not to waste time, while wasting time is a French expertise! We spend hours taking cigarette and coffee breaks at work, sitting at cafes or discussing at the dinner table, something I never see here. Even the sense of humor is different: my first year at Drexel, students would never laugh at my jokes in class.”
Recent news reports on the economy in France have been dismal. The Eurozone’s second-largest economy, France is suffering “more than any other member from a shocking deterioration in competitiveness,” according to a recent article in Fortune magazine.
Duchene says, “People back home are very preoccupied, and one way in which consumers react to such news is by purchasing items that are made in France as much as possible.” The result of which only produces marginal results, she notes.
“To restore competitiveness, the government needs not only to reduce social contributions, which will lead to reduced labor costs, but also to create a real culture of entrepreneurship. The problem in France – unlike in Germany – is that we have a small number of very large firms that specialize in things like nuclear power and airplanes, but not enough small, innovative firms. We definitely don’t have the start-up culture, and that’s one of our biggest weaknesses.”
Duchene says the current and previous governments have made some efforts in that direction, by reducing taxes and some labor costs paid by small companies, but there is still a lot of work to be done, “especially with people’s mentalities.”
Yeah, right. Duchene reports that between her research, teaching and having two “young and exhausting” children (Mia, who will soon turn 5, and Max, who will soon turn 2), she has temporarily given up her hobbies.
Phavorite Philly Eats
Duchene and her husband dine out in Philadelphia sometimes, but she says they have no favorite place. “Just one rule: It must not be French — but that’s only because we can’t often afford to go to Le Bec Fin!”
Little Known Fact
Google Duchene’s name and you may be surprised to find that she has an IMDb (Internet Movie Database) page; She starred in the French short film “Un an et un jour” (A Year and a Day) a couple of years ago. (More on that in an upcoming issue of Market Street magazine.)