Wendy in the World: Shurchkov ’01
Wellesley alumna and professor on gender and risk
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 20:10
Wellesley just can’t seem to get rid of Olga Shurchkov ’01, who loved the College so much that she returned as an assistant professor of economics in 2008. With fond memories of her time as a student on campus, strong connections with professors and a love for a liberal arts education, Shurchkov plans to stay at Wellesley for as long as possible.
As a professor, when she’s not teaching or participating in various committees around campus, Shurchkov focuses on her research; she is currently studying behavioral and experimental economics. More specifically, Shurchkov is researching the beauty premium, or the hypothesis that more attractive people earn more money in the labor market.
Last year, while on sabbatical, Shurchkov pursued her passion for researching gender-related topics off campus. While away from Wellesley, she conducted research as a fellow in the Women and Public Policy program at the Harvard Kennedy School, a program that provides individuals with the tools to explore the broad topic of gender, and attended seminars taught by the best and brightest in the field.
Ironically enough, one of the first links yielded when googling Shurchkov’s name is to a site titled “The 15 Hottest Female Intellectuals”—and she’s number one! As a woman who researches gender, discrimination, equality and the beauty premium for a living, she was surprisingly nonchalant about her “claim to fame.”
“It’s sort of one of those things where I would love for people to focus on my work instead of other things, but I am in a public domain [where] people can see my professional photos,” said Shurchkov. “It’s ironic because I work with appearance discrimination, and here it is coming up that my appearance is being judged! At least it says I’m an intellectual. I’m in the company of other really intelligent women, so it’s not terrible.”
While many of her papers today focus on issues such as gender equality and discrimination, Shurchkov double-majored in economics and art history. She credits her ability to develop multiple passions and interests to her liberal arts eduction.
“I really believe [that] liberal arts education is the best way to educate students. Take as many different types of courses as you can, just so that there are no regrets,” said Shurchkov. “There’s very little I regret about my Wellesley experience because I took classes all across the curriculum and I really learned a lot from all of those courses. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself! Take a risk!”
In addition to graduating summa cum laude and being elected to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year, Shurchkov also sang for the choir, where she continued to pursue interests outside of economics—and made some of her best college memories.
“I think my best memory was when we went on tour to Italy, and we sang a spontaneous little concert in Venice with our conductor and all of my Wellesley choir mates. And we just kind of started singing in this amazing space with amazing acoustics and we felt really close to each other. It was an amazing moment.” She encourages all students to pursue interests outside of their major.
Shurchkov’s final advice is to go for it. “It’s never too late to change your mind. Just go for that risky job, go for that opportunity. Be bold!”