From the Classroom to Congress, a Scholarly “Superstar”
Dhaval Dave wholeheartedly believes in the transformative power of a college education.
As proof, the Stanton Research Professor of Economics points to his own undergraduate experiences. Like many first-year college students, Dave entered New Jersey’s Rutgers University with no idea of what he wanted to do or be in four years’ time. “I was completely oblivious about my future,” he admits, noting that while high school aptitude tests indicated “I’d be great at accounting,” his guidance counselors encouraged him to keep an open mind: “They said it was okay to not know what I wanted to study, and that I should just wait and see what kind of classes spoke to me.”
Dave didn’t have to wait too long; his “eureka moment” came during an intro course in economics he took in his first semester. “I’d had no exposure to the subject before, but I’d always liked math and analytics,” he explains. He found that economics “just made sense to me. It offers a different lens through which we can view what’s going on around us and what’s happening in society.”
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In the decades since, Dave’s passion for economics — in particular, public health and the labor market — has only grown stronger. Today, he’s an internationally renowned and respected researcher who has published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles in top-rated academic journals; a research associate with the acclaimed National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); and a research fellow with the highly selective Institute of Labor Economics (IZA) in Bonn, Germany. Dave’s research has garnered countless awards, including the Georgescu-Roegen Prize, awarded by the Southern Economic Association, in 2013; eight years later, in 2021, he was again honored with this prestigious award — and a second paper of his was chosen as runner-up.
In recognition of these and other achievements, Dave was awarded the 2022 Mee Family Prize. Established in 2012 through an endowed gift from Michael Mee ’66 and his wife, Judy, the award is given to a full-time Bentley faculty member whose exceptional research has enhanced the university’s scholarly standing.
According to Danielle Hartigan, associate professor of Natural and Applied Sciences and director of Bentley’s Health Thought Leadership Network (TLN), of which Dave is a member, “Dhaval’s commitment to using cutting-edge economic analyses to address some of the most consequential health and social challenges of our time has impact beyond Bentley and beyond Boston.” His work “has a direct line to policy, contributing multiple times to Congressional testimony in both the House and the Senate and to Departments of Labor at both the national and state levels,” she explains, and his research regarding pharmaceutical advertising has even been cited in a Supreme Court case.
From welfare reform and tobacco control policy to opioid abuse and maternal and child health, Dave’s research “has explored how legislation, taxation and policy reform have affected critical population health outcomes,” Hartigan continues. “His prolific scholarship has played an important and objective role in conversations about almost every major public health issue over the past 20 years.”
While Dave is proud of all of his research projects, he’s particularly pleased with a series of COVID-related studies undertaken with NBER colleagues. “Ours were among the earliest research projects by economists during the pandemic,” he explains, noting that their findings were available to politicians and policy makers to inform real-time decisions about lockdowns, mask protocols and other public health interventions. “No one was prepared for this pandemic,” Dave notes, “so public health officials were really struggling with how to respond”; being able to provide strong, evidence-based research these officials could consult for guidance was “incredibly gratifying.”
Gibbons Professor of Economics Jeff Livingston points out that, since joining Bentley’s faculty in 2004, Dave has published an average of 4-plus academic papers per year, a “rate of productivity typically achieved only by senior scholars at top-tier research institutions with the support of a research lab and an army of research assistants.” Yet, despite his colleague’s prodigious scholarly output, Livingston notes that Dave — whom he characterizes as both “a master of applied microeconometrics” and “the shining jewel of the Economics Department” — is also “one of Bentley’s best teachers.”
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It’s a sentiment echoed by Mike Quinn, a fellow Economics professor, who says, “It’s common to see Dhaval working late into the evening with a seemingly endless line of students outside his office door.” Dave has supervised more than 100 undergraduate research projects to date through his Research in Business Economics (EC 431) course alone, Quinn explains, as well as dozens of Honors Program capstone projects, Liberal Studies Major (LSM) culminating experiences, and Valente Center for Arts and Sciences independent research projects. Dave is also a “powerful force in Bentley’s PhD programs,” Quinn continues, noting that “Dhaval cares deeply about our doctoral students and volunteers to help them with their research.” By generously sharing his time and expertise, he says, Dave has had “a very substantial impact on our PhD students’ research and careers.”
Indeed, says Dave Gulley, professor and Economics department chair, “Dhaval’s record of working with students to further their research may be unrivaled by any other faculty member.” His unwavering commitment to his students, coupled with scholarship that is “beyond impressive in its breadth, depth and impact,” is why, Gulley says, “We in the Economics department view Dhaval as a superstar.”
Dave, with characteristic humility, shrugs off these superlatives. “I’m just lucky to work with such an incredible team,” he says of his colleagues here at Bentley and around the world. “It truly takes a village.” Receiving the Mee Family Prize, he says, is “amazingly gratifying, and incredibly humbling,” especially as he’s always considered his research to be its own reward; quite simply, he says, “I’m so grateful that I get to spend each day doing what I love.”