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Ramapo experience led alumnus to successful Ph.D. candidacy

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)April 11, 2022

As a student at Ramapo College, Kevin Ng ’16 learned that involvement in a variety of activities and organizations on campus would be key for developing critical thinking and leadership skills. Ng, an Economics Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., is taking those lessons learned to complete his studies in a highly competitive field. Following graduation this spring, he will begin a position as a Research Analyst in the Resources and Force Readiness division of the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) where he will conduct policy and program evaluations for projects to support the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as other sponsors in the Department of Defense. https://www.cna.org/centers/cna/rfr/

The Oradell, N.J., native graduated from Ramapo with a degree in mathematics, and an economics minor, and earned teacher certification in math. He also completed the College Honors Program. 

Tell us about some of your research at Cornell.

I research topics in the Economics of Education and Labor Economics. My interest in the topic stems from my experiences at Ramapo where I earned a high school mathematics teacher certification.

My job market paper estimates the effects of K-12 teacher tenure on performance and retention. This paper relies on New Jersey’s TEACHNJ Act, which extended the pre-tenure period from three to four years and standardized tenure removals.

I estimate the effects of tenure throughout a teacher’s career using value-added, as well as summative ratings, which primarily rely on subjective classroom observations. At tenure receipt, math value-added declines slightly, but performance remains otherwise unchanged. However, later in the career, the removal of tenure protections does not impact performance. Connecting these results, tenure induces a slight decline in productivity at tenure receipt that quickly dissipates.

I also evaluate TEACHNJ’s impact on the teacher labor market. TEACHNJ modified tenure standards to rely solely on ratings with scope for subjectivity. The policy disproportionately increased Black and male teacher turnover rates. In the teaching profession, Black and male teachers are already underrepresented relative to their corresponding student demographics. The increased turnover may harm in-group students, as student outcomes improve when paired with teachers of the same race or gender. Given few effects on performance along with large declines in diversity, the efficacy of tenure reforms to improve performance is limited.

I created a video for the job market that explains my job market paper on teacher tenure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4War1qtwDo&ab_channel=KevinNg.

I also have a coauthored paper that estimates heterogeneous returns to STEM programs in Colombia. We examine how returns to enrolling in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs vary with students’ academic preparation. We find that less-prepared students were less likely to complete a STEM degree than their more able peers, but they had larger earnings returns to enrolling. Our results suggest that policies that encourage less-prepared students to enroll in STEM programs can yield large but unevenly distributed earnings gains.

One of your papers researched aging curves of major league baseball players.

My paper titled “Analyzing Major League Baseball Player’s Performance Based on Age and Experience” was published in the Journal of Sports Economics & Management. I worked on this paper at Ramapo College, as my Honors Program Senior Project under the supervision of Professor Jason Hecht. This paper served as an introduction to economic modeling and econometrics that guided me toward my Ph.D.

Professor Hecht provided tremendous guidance and support to carefully craft the final project. The paper models player performance as a function of age, experience, and talent.  I generated a dataset by collecting publicly available performance data.  By modeling aging curves across thousands of observations, I find that performance peaks for the average hitter and pitcher at 29 and 28 years, respectively.

The Cahill Career Development Center at Ramapo also helped me to secure an internship with the Atlantic Baseball Confederation Collegiate League. I worked there for three years and eventually became the Vice President of Statistics and Analytics. I collected statistics, analyzed the data, and managed several interns during my time there.

You were very involved as a student at Ramapo. How did your experiences shape your career path?

Ramapo offers many opportunities to be involved as a student. It also allowed me to explore different interests.  For example, I served as the Student Trustee and member of the Student Government Association where I learned about the structure of colleges and their decision-making process. I also worked with tremendous staff and administrators in the Civic and Community Engagement Center, Center for Student Success, and Office of Specialized Services. In addition to the teacher certification program, these opportunities allowed me to practice teaching and engage students. These skills helped me learn how to make my research accessible to general audiences and valuable to policymakers. In each of these opportunities, my critical thinking and leadership skills continued to develop.

What advice can you offer current students who want to pursue a similar path?

I encourage current students to utilize the resources available to them at Ramapo College. The small class sizes and close faculty interaction provides tremendous opportunities to conduct research and explore your interests. I would also encourage students to speak with faculty advisors early and often.

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About Ramapo College

Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The comprehensive college is situated among the beautiful Ramapo Mountains, is within commuting distance to New York City, was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and boasts the best on-campus housing in New Jersey per Niche.com.

Ramapo College provides its students with individualized attention, mentorship, and supports; hands-on learning; and a range of opportunities for service and leadership development. Its graduation and retention rates exceed national averages and it places approximately 1,000 students per year in internships in New York City. The College is ranked #1 among New Jersey public institutions by College Choice; is recognized as the state’s top college on the list of Best Disability Schools by Great Value Colleges; is designated a “Military Friendly College” in Victoria Media’s Guide to Military Friendly Schools; and is recognized as a top college by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Princeton Review and Money magazine, among others.  

Ramapo College’s over 40,000 alumni are the confident, intellectually curious, self-aware, and humble people who are highly sought after and who make a positive impact at local, national, and global levels.  Ramapo College is distinguished as a Career Development College of Distinction by CollegesofDistinction.com. Every student at Ramapo is enrolled in its unique and award winning Pathways Program which equips and empowers students, across the continuum of their academic career, to secure internships, pursue graduate/professional school, and/or enter the job market. 

Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Applied Mathematics, Business Administration, Contemporary Instructional Design, Computer Science, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

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