CLU to launch economic forecast center

Bill Watkins and other economists to join faculty

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Feb. 24, 2009) Eminent economists Bill Watkins and Dan Hamilton will join the California Lutheran University School of Business to expand their regional forecast project and help develop a proposed new graduate program in economic analysis and forecasting.

Watkins and Hamilton, who are currently with the University of California, Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project, will move to CLU this spring. Kirk Lesh, another member of the UCSB team who is currently a senior lecturer at CLU, will also become a full-time faculty member. The three economists will split their time between teaching and research.

Under their direction, the new economic forecasting and research center at CLU will integrate graduate and undergraduate economics instruction, research and outreach to the business community.

Watkins, Hamilton and Lesh have been providing information on economic, demographic and regional business trends in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Los Angeles counties through the UCSB Economic Forecast Project. The new center at CLU will be designed to provide forecasts on a local, state and national level that the leaders of government agencies, businesses and nonprofits can use to make decisions.

The proposed graduate program at CLU, which will be reviewed by the faculty later this semester, would provide a master’s in economics with an emphasis in modeling and forecasting.

Later in its development, the center will also develop intensive professional development programs to help senior business leaders and executives assess economic forecast results and apply them to their advantage.

Watkins, who has a doctorate in economics, has been the executive director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project since 2000 and previously served as an economist with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D.C. Hamilton, who also has a doctorate in economics, has served as the director of economics for the UCSB project since 2000. Lesh, who plans to complete his doctorate in economics this year, has served as the project’s real estate economist since 2007.

The new economic forecasting and research center at CLU and the addition of the well-regarded economists to the faculty are the latest initiatives during a decade of growth for the School of Business. In addition to a traditional MBA, the university offers an international MBA, an online MBA in financial planning through the California Institute of Finance at CLU, and a post-MBA certificate program. This year CLU also began offering a master’s in information systems and technology.