September 14, 2016
Much like the rest of us, Courtney Conrad has not been able to get tickets to see the smash Broadway hit Hamilton. But she is a fan nonetheless.
"I have listened to the entire cast album enough times to be able to sing all of the characters' parts in the car, office, anywhere!" she said.
Conrad, a senior economics major from Selinsgrove, Pa., has been able to meld that fangirling into some unique research that analyzes some of the show's music. She recently presented her research at the Student Conference in Business and Economics at Elizabethtown College.
Hamilton, of course, tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. treasury secretary, using hip-hop music.
The piece Cabinet Battle #1 features a debate between Hamilton and then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson about Hamilton's financial plan for the new nation. The plan contained three recommendations: for the U.S. to create a central bank, to assume the debts of the individual states, and to pay back the national debt accumulated during the Revolutionary War.
Hamilton's plan eventually passed due to compromise between Hamilton and Jefferson in which the U.S. assumed the states' debts in exchange for the U.S. capital moving from New York City to Washington D.C.
"A remarkable trend with this musical is that audience members and listeners of Hamilton are able to learn about a part of American history that they may have not taken an interest in otherwise," Conrad said. "This phenomenon serves as an excellent link to innovatively teaching economics."
Conrad, along with Professor Matthew Rousu, chair of the Department of Economics, have analyzed many songs from Hamilton, including Satisfied, The Room Where It Happens and more. She has also assisted with Rousu's website, BroadwayEconomics.com.
"Connecting economics concepts to Broadway songs helped me see how economics can truly be utilized in the 'real world,'" Conrad said. "Because of his passion and innovation, Dr. Rousu has inspired me to 'carry his torch' and pursue a career in academia where I can contribute to economics through my research, but also serve as an engaging and relatable mentor and educator for students."
After graduation, Conrad plans to attend graduate school to pursue an advanced degree in economics, with a dream of becoming a behavioral economist for The Walt Disney Company.