Spotlighted Student: Madelyn Houser, 2011
Bryn Mawr student Madelyn Houser ‘11 is double majoring in Mathematics at Bryn Mawr College and Economics at Haverford College. She did not expect to attend a women’s liberal arts college but when she visited Bryn Mawr College during the winter of her high school senior year she was hooked. Not only by the beauty of the grounds but, she admired the bright and lively students she met and she wanted to be a member of Bryn Mawr’s community.
As she entered college Maddie planned on majoring in French. However, during the summer following her freshman year she interned at a domestic violence program in Chalfont, PA. The experience influenced her decision to change her major to economics. Observing the workings of a non-profit organization revealed the economic principals of running and managing a business. She saw how economics affects women’s lives, how an economic class can restrict options, and she witnessed financial abuse stemming from economic limitations. Issues around justice and fair treatment have become integral in Maddie’s desire to help others.
As she entered her sophomore year she took introductory courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics at Haverford. She chose Haverford’s economics curriculum for its more theoretical and math based approach. However, having the option to take courses at both institutions gave her the opportunity to take Bryn Mawr Professor Vartanian’s course on the Economics of Inequality and Government Policy. This course was a highlight for her in that it combined her passions of economics with poverty alleviation and social justice issues.
The summer following her sophomore year she interned in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Housed within the U.S Department of State in Washington, DC, the office deals with modern day slavery. While there she helped with rolling out the annual Trafficking in Persons report, arranging press briefings, writing speeches for the Ambassador, and promoting private-public partnerships to fight trafficking.
During the summer of 2010 Maddie was employed by Hope International, a non-profit microfinance organization that offers assistance to 14 countries world-wide. She served as a fund-raiser for the annual corporate sponsored golfing event. Hope International, whose home office is located in Lancaster, PA, offers financial support in the form of small loans and savings accounts to those in need. It also delivers educational messages on healthcare and clean water management.
For her thesis Maddie is investigating the level of competition in microfinance markets across countries to determine whether interest caps might be justified based on the competitive behavior of the market structure. As microfinance grows, evolves, and expands, many governments and central banks have questioned to what extent MFIs should be regulated and by whom. Interest rate ceilings are one such regulation at the heart of debate. Most advocates and researchers argue that interest rate caps are detrimental to the microfinance industry because they prevent MFIs from charging a high enough interest rate to cover their costs and remain operational. However, high interest rates might also indicate MFIs are able to exercise market power because the markets in which they operate are not competitive.
Growing up in a military family, Maddie grew up in North Carolina, Virginia, Japan (from eight years old until she was thirteen years old), and then she moved to Chalfont, PA where her parents still live. She is a Hall Advisor at Bryn Mawr College and is a member of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. She also works with a Bryn Mawr alumna assisting her in organizing, cataloging, and shelving her extensive library, in preparation for an appraisal.
Following graduation she anticipates working for a non-profit or government organization with a focus on improving the lives of others, especially those dealing with poverty. She envisions going to graduate school to earn a law degree or an economics degree in international development.