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Many have come to know Ryan Benschop from a little child. He was daddy’s little boy, always in the company of his father, Mr. Mark Benschop, social activist and host of the ‘Straight Up’ Programme, heard on 107.1FM and streamed online.
Those who know Ryan from a child would fondly recall him referring to his father’s friends as Uncle X or Aunty Y. He is the child every parent would be proud of. From childhood he was well-mannered, respectful and undoubtedly smart. He has kept these qualities as he maturates into adulthood.
This young man grew up in the eyes of the public, and the public felt a kinship and responsibility for his welfare during the five plus years his father was incarcerated at Camp Street Prison on a treason charge, that he was never found guilty of, and subsequently released on a face-saving pardon. According to Mr. Benschop, were it not out of concern that his child was preparing for the Secondary School Entrance Examination (SSEE), and wanting to be there with him and for him, he would have stayed in prison and challenged the charge until he was vindicated.
Father and son. Photo taken shortly after his father release
Ryan passed the SSEE and acquired placement at Queen’s College where he continued to distinguish himself. He entered University of Nottingham, United Kingdom (U.K) where again he excelled, earning a Bachelor’s of Social Science (Hons) in Economics and Econometrics (First Class Honour), along with the prize for outstanding achievement in year three. With the school year about to start, Ryan is heading off to pursue his Master’s in Economics at the University of Oxford, U.K.
Ryan sat with Village Voice and shared some insight into his academic life
Q: Why economic and politics? Did your parents play a role in influencing this choice?
A: Economics was my sole interest. Growing up in a developing country inspired my interest in contributing to the development and application of the tools we use to study the interplay between economic phenomena and policy. Particularly, I was passionate about macro level issues, like what kinds of policies are best able to stabilise the economy, and what factors account for the large income disparities across countries.
Q: How was the programme?
A: My experience with the programme at Nottingham was extremely positive. The Economics Department there is among the best in the U.K., and the quality and rigour of the coursework we did was very high. Though there was no shortage of applying our knowledge, the courses I chose emphasised an in-depth understanding of the theoretical and quantitative foundations of mainstream Economics. In many instances, I was surprised, but pleased, to see that the level of the work we studied was at or near the graduate level, which left me well-prepared for further studies in, and serious engagement with Economics and important issues in this sphere.
Q: What are the streams you pursued in economics and what are your career and future study plans in relation to these streams?
A: Although the programme provided a strong background in all the core areas (micro, macro, econometrics), my primary focus was on the second and third. I took advanced courses in econometric theory, monetary economics, and macroeconomics, which took a serious approach to understanding the theory behind the statistical methods we use to investigate issues in economics, and some of the models used by major central banks and academics to understand and estimate the impacts of economic policy.
My dissertation employed one of the workhorse models in macroeconomics, a so-called new Keynesian DSGE model to investigate the effects of quantitative easing programmes (a relatively recent form of monetary policy aimed at easing economic conditions during a downturn) in the U.K.
Q: How does it feel now that you have completed the programme with honours?
A: I’m very pleased to see my hard work materialise.
Q. You are heading back to university to pursue a master’s. You had the option of going to London School of Economics (LSE), University College of London (UCL) and University of Oxford. You chose Oxford. Why?
A: Since as a child I wanted to go to Oxford. I always saw the university as having programmes that produce critical thinkers who have played important roles in shaping societies for the better. My dream of attending Oxford has increased after reading a book from my dad’s library, ‘The Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins,’ which I read several times. Also, choosing Oxford does not mean the UCL and LSE aren’t great because they are all great universities.
Q: What were your challenges as a student and living in a different country?
A: The biggest challenge I faced was being away from most of my friends and family. My studies kept me busy, but there were still many times I felt homesick, especially when the pandemic travel restrictions made it difficult to visit home for the holiday.
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation? Are you a straight nerd or are you a mix?
A: Probably more of a nerd – I read a lot of economics and math for fun. When I don’t have too many deadlines, I like hanging out with my friends and enjoying a night out.