Alumni Gift Honors Economist Edwin T. Burton

Monroe Hall at the University of Virginia

The University of Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences has announced the renaming of the College’s Economics Career Office, or the “ECO,” in honor of Professor of Economics Edwin T. Burton. Naming ECO for Professor Burton was proposed by alumnus and lead donor Drew McKnight who, together with other grateful alumni, have contributed nearly $3 million to permanently endow the office. The name change was approved by the Board of Visitors on June 2nd.

The author of several books about finance, Burton began teaching at UVA in 1988. Thousands of UVA students have taken his courses on behavioral finance and the theory of financial markets, giving him the distinction of having taught more third- and fourth-year students than any other professor in the University’s history. His finance courses attract nearly 100 students each semester, and he has advised and mentored hundreds of those students while supporting many others in independent study.

Burton also accompanies economics students to finance conferences around the world, using the opportunity to introduce them to industry leaders and help them develop important career contacts.

His reputation as a teacher and mentor has contributed to the popularity of the Department of Economics, which produces more than 400 graduates each year — approximately 15 percent of the College’s graduating class. Students who majored in other disciplines have also been drawn to Professor Burton’s finance courses, largely because of his reputation as a teacher.

“For years, Professor Burton combined his devotion to students with his extensive network in the financial services sector to help UVA students secure internships and find jobs,” said Ken Elzinga, the Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics at UVA, and a co-founder of the Economics Career Office. “The Edwin T. Burton Economics Career Office expands upon the efforts of Professor Burton to optimize the labor market for majors in the Department of Economics.”

Established in 2013, the Economics Career Office was intended to help equip economics majors with tools and resources to successfully reach the next steps in their career planning. Today, the Monroe Hall-based office presents career events that give students opportunities to meet with employers and connect with economics alumni. It also provides the department’s students and prospective majors with specialized career advising from the time they declare a major until they graduate.

As one of only two university career offices in the country focused specifically on helping economics students in jobs, the program’s close ties with faculty help take advantage of their extensive networks to find opportunities for students that are uniquely suited to their strengths and their interests. It also contributes to the program’s strong sense of community and commitment to students’ success after graduation, said Jennifer Jones, who has been the director of the Economics Career Office since its inception.

“At any given point, we may have as many as 900 students majoring in economics, but having points of personal contact within ECO makes the department feel much smaller,” Jones said. “With regular faculty and ECO communication, students feel like the Department of Economics, alumni and their professors are personally invested in helping them move forward in their career-related activities.”

Jones added that the endowment provided by McKnight and others will ensure the services the career office provides are ongoing. It is a huge step toward realizing the program’s full potential.

“Mr. McKnight’s gift establishing an endowed fund will be transformative for the ECO and all of its many stakeholders,” said John Pepper, Merrill S. Bankard Professor of Economics, and chair of the Department of Economics. “The ECO has become a key and unique part of our undergraduate programming in the department, the nexus between students, faculty and alumni to engage in post-graduation planning. Through the ECO, alumni and professors are personally invested in helping our students move forward in their career-related activities. With these endowment funds, this unique career services programming can continue in perpetuity, and we can begin to plan for bigger and better career service programing.”

Andrew McKnight, who was an All-American on the UVA Men’s Lacrosse team and a member of the Zeta Psi fraternity and who now serves as the co-chief investment officer and managing director of credit funds with Fortress Investment Group, received his B.A. in economics from the College of Arts & Sciences in 2000. As a student, he worked closely with Burton when he was searching for internships and job opportunities.

“For many years, Professor Ed Burton was the unofficial Economics Career Office,” McKnight said. “Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, he helped place hundreds of students into their careers, and the establishment of a career office within the department only helped to further those efforts. With this step, we can ensure that future generations of economics students will benefit from the same thoughtful guidance that Ed provided to so many of us.”

Burton recalls his time as McKnight’s friend and advisor fondly but admits that he was both surprised and honored to have the career office bear his name.

“I have been fortunate during my 34 years at the University to have fabulous students and outstanding colleagues in the Economics Department,” Burton said. “I am very moved by the interest shown by this renaming, regarding the efforts that I have made over these years to help these outstanding students with their careers. Few have been as lucky as I to be involved over the years with such a great community of students and faculty.”