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Zhiling wang

Which courses do you teach this year?

Quantitative Spatial Analysis and Seminar in Firm Location Strategy.


What do you like most about the course that you teach/your field of expertise?

This course provides a modern econometric toolbox that is highly relevant to the analysis of spatial research questions. I like the part where I am the leading role for students in transforming complicated mathematical symbols to applications in a simpler manner.


What did you study and where?

I obtained my bachelor degree in China major in statistics. During my 4th year at the university, I realized that I was more interested in real-life economic topics. So I applied for master programmes in economics abroad. Later I got admitted to the Mphil programme at Tinbergen Institute and finished my PhD at Department of Spatial Economics, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.


What kind of student were you?

My student life during university was quite diversified filled with various activities of bridging to peers in different backgrounds and interests. It is a bit awkward to say the total studying activities made up merely half of my student life. Other time spent with friends when writing drama scripts, making musicals, running/managing student organizations, and travelling to exotic places is always lots of fun.

Looking back, is there anything you would do differently about your time as a student?

In the Chinese culture about teaching, students are assumed to be deferential to teachers by default. This kind of class environment went through my primary school to university education. If I were to go back, I prefer that I could develop more critical thinking skills and be the most skeptical and challenging student in class.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Badminton and painting take away most of my spare time.


What are you most proud of?

As an academic researcher, I am most proud of the process that my own research gets public attention and triggers an extensive discussion towards societal problem solving. I am lucky to have such a chance recently after I published an article at Economisch Statistische Berichten with my colleagues Bas Karreman and Frank van Oort. We studied how the social loan system introduced in 2015 affected Dutch students’ choice of majors for college study. This article quickly received wide coverage in the media, such as de Volkskrant and NRC (see also EUR news and ESE news). We got multiple requests from different stakeholders that would like to know more on this topic. Good feedbacks were returned, and many discussions were led on whether the government should keep or abolish the student loan system in future. I am proud to see that our research is used as one of empirical evidence for an important policy decision, which involves the entire student population in the Netherlands. I would like to conduct more studies like this one that are efficiently informative for policy making. 


What is your advice to this year's UPT students?

For your future career, most likely you will read lots of reports and take on the responsibility to draw your own conclusions. A wise conclusion should be with full consideration of the context, the clearly-defined problem and the methodological issues. Keep your mind alert. Don’t fully believe in anecdotes. Don’ fully believe in models neither. Truth often lies somewhere in between.

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