Phanindra (Phani) Wunnava

phani In each issue of this newsletter, we profile a faculty member who makes innovative use of the library or academic technology. This issue features Dr. Phanindra (Phani) Wunnava, David K. Smith ’42 Chair in Applied Economics. He is also a research fellow at IZA (Institute for the Study of Labor) in Bonn, Germany.

Originally from the small coastal town of Machilipatnam in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Phani is a first-generation immigrant to the US. He received his Ph.D. from SUNY Binghamton (now Binghamton University), and his research interests reflect this background. Currently, he is co-writing a book on immigrant assimilation, specifically focusing on Asian countries, and he has published research in the areas of financial liberalization (i.e., the easing of financial rules and regulations), remittances (i.e. funds sent by immigrants back to their home countries), the Affordable Health Care Act, labor unions, and earnings inequality.

Phani notes that working at Middlebury allows him the freedom to explore many different areas of research. He is especially proud of having been able to co-publish research with some of his students – “Our students are wonderful. They keep me and my colleagues on our toes!” – while the College’s small size allows him to interact with colleagues and staff beyond the Economics Department. In addition to current and former departmental colleagues David Colander and David K. Smith, Phani cited former Professor Emeritus of History Pardon Tillinghast as being particularly inspirational to him.

The library, of course, plays an important role in his work at Middlebury. “I spend a considerable amount of time in the library. The librarians here are wonderful and dedicated, always eager to help me and my students. In fact, if I am not in my office, most of the time I am camped out in the library. I’m a bit old fashioned and enjoy browsing hard copies of journals.” Given the quantitative nature of most of his courses, Phani also makes extensive use of technology, especially statistical programs, in his teaching. “As an econometrician I spend enormous amounts of time running statistical packages analyzing large datasets to empirically test some of my research questions. In fact, my favorite place in the library is the Economics Lab in LIB140!”

Outside the College, Phani is an avid fan of International Cricket Council “test” cricket, the longest form of cricket played, with matches lasting at times for days on end. He roots, of course, for Team India (especially against arch-rival Team Australia) and plays the game himself as well (“I’m a left-arm spinner, lefty batsman!” he declared). Phani also volunteers as his time as a cook at a homeless shelter in Burlington with his wife, and keeps up with world events in part by listening to All-India Radio (AIR), the BBC, and ABC Radio Australia via shortwave radio.