February 8, 2017 Reading Time: 2 minutes



AIER’s founder, Col. E. C. Harwood, encouraged students to apply the knowledge they gained in their university classrooms to the research projects they were assigned at AIER. He called this “fieldwork.” With this legacy, during the 2017 Winter Program, students immersed themselves in the practice of economic analysis under the guidance of AIER’s researchers. They learned applied economic research skills as well as soft skills such as working in a team, meeting deadlines, and professional behaviors expected in an office environment.

The setup of all AIER education programs is based on the scientific evidence of the best contemporary methods of educating students, which I touched on in a working paper. The evidence shows that the dynamics of the workplace in the 21st century call for teamwork, flexibility, and situated learning, and that the skills required in the practical world are unlike the skills and competencies attained in the classroom. This is where AIER can contribute to a bigger societal goal – we can help students bridge the gap between academic knowledge they master in college and the applied work they will be doing in the workplace after graduation. This is what Col. Harwood envisioned. We are just updating his approach with contemporary pedagogy.

Let’s take critical thinking skills, for example. At AIER, the practice of critical thinking assumes a form different from the academic setting. In the workplace, critical thinking advocates action, the preparation of well-articulated ideas, examining different points of view and coming to a reasoned conclusion, and the efficient delivery of those ideas to others. During our Winter Program we focused on instilling those competencies in the students who came to our campus. Based on their reflections, it looks like we succeeded!

Here is what the students said:

  • “Focus on tasks, focus on the outcomes, and convey the big picture. Don’t get bogged down by little details in a presentation.” – Caleb Weeldreyer.
  • “Listening to the supervisors’ presentations gave me a lot of new knowledge and allowed me to analyze different research in ways I hadn’t thought of doing before.” – Ashlyn Wall.
  • “Learning to communicate more openly is something I believe I can relate to any job to make sure that the work I am doing is accurate.” — Joseph Rositano.
  • “AIER has given me an opportunity to partake in an economic research environment, my first experience outside of the services industry.” – Max Rysdon.
  • “I gained experience working with professionals in the workplace.” – Morgan Fisher.


Picture: Small group discussion during Winter 2017 program at AIER.

L to R: Courtney Kelderman, Brett Korn, Caleb Weeldryer, Ted Cangero, Natalia Smirnova, Lorrie Halverson, and John Skar.

Natalia Smirnova, PhD

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