PhD in Economics

Brian Bonis, 2021

Brian Bonis

Describe your dissertation, thesis, or capstone (if you completed one):

In my doctoral dissertation, conducted under the supervision of Dr. Carlos Ramirez, I do a deep dive into the federal funds market and explore how it has evolved since the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-2009. Additionally, I investigate changes to Treasury cash management policies and analyze their impacts on taxpayers and the federal funds market. Finally, I advance the federal funds literature by updating James Hamilton’s federal funds rate model in his 1997 AER paper with contemporary data, and then I create a new federal funds model to better explain the modern-day federal funds market.

How did you choose your specific area of study?

As a financial analyst at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, I studied money market and monetary policy implementation. A lot of my work and research focused on understanding the dynamics in the federal funds market. Given my institutional knowledge related to the federal funds market and my access to federal funds data, I chose to do research that would help explain how the market has functioned in the past and present.

How did your academic experiences in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences impact you?

My academic experiences in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences provided me with the tools and resources to effectively do economic research. By learning macroeconomic theory and time-series econometrics, I learned to "speak the language" that economists use and conduct my own research. The diverse faculty provided me with a broad, robust framework for thinking about a wide range of economic issues.

Of which accomplishment(s) during your time at Mason are you most proud?

I'm most proud that, with the support of my professors and fellow students, I was able to accomplish obtaining my PhD while working full-time and with two little kids at home.

Are there faculty or staff members who made a difference during your Mason career?

First and foremost I must acknowledge Mary Jackson who held my hand (and many other people's hands!) through the entire graduate school process. From conversations before I applied to the program, to making sure I was aware of details for the graduation ceremony, she kept me on the straight and narrow to understand all that was required to accomplish my goals. I was so thankful to have been taught by the late Dr. Walter Williams. I had been exposed to his work prior to joining George Mason and appreciated his straightforward, but not always mainstream, ways of thinking about economic issues. Dr. Donald Boudreaux and Dr. Daniel Klein helped me explore Adam Smith in great depth. The readings and courses opened my mind to deep philosophical and classical economic issues that I think about daily and help provide me with a framework with which to view current economic and moral issues. Dr. Lawrence White taught me the history of money and provided detailed insights into how different banking systems operated in various economies throughout history. Dr. Carlos Ramirez laid the foundations of macroeconomic theory for me and taught me tangible Stata skills for performing time-series analysis. Dr. Bryan Caplan showed me how to view economic issues through a game theory lens and gave excellent insights into the economics of education.

What advice would you give to an incoming cohort of graduate students?

My advice is to come at the program with an enthusiastic, curious frame of mind. School should be FUN. It's much easier to spend the time doing readings and problem sets when you actually enjoy the subject matter, so be sure to focus on subjects and fields that truly are of interest to you. And talk to your fellow students; they are going through the same thing you are. They can help you study by explaining topics from different angles that may better relate the issue to you, and, they can commiserate with you as well which can be quite therapeutic at times.

What are your current career plans following graduation? What are your long-term career goals?

For the time being, I'm focused on my current role as Assistant Director of the Secretariat of the Federal Open Market Committee at the Federal Reserve. In the future, I'd like to supplement my day job with teaching so that I can share my institutional knowledge with others, all while staying connected to current academic issues.