Economics Professor Leads Students to Impressive Opportunities
by Patrick Gordon
If you flip over to the back of Donald Wargo's business card, you may see an excerpt from Winston Churchill's famous "Never Give Up" speech.
To Wargo, the mantra deserves sharing.
"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."
Wargo, with his charismatic demeanor and can-do attitude, is the driving force behind an impressive wave of new experiential learning opportunities available to economics majors.
Students under his tutelage over the past year have presented to the Executive Board at Comcast on the IT industry in Philadelphia, counseled Mayor Kenney’s administration on the feasibility of mandatory pre-K, and completed research for the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
The burgeoning relationship between the Department of Economics and Comcast is a direct result of Wargo's belief in Churchill's slogan.
"About a year ago I sat down and wrote about 10 letters to various organizations touting my students and their research," Wargo says. "One of the responses came from the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Comcast and after showing what we can do we now have six students conducting all types of research for Comcast."
Those six students presented their research findings to a room of 25 top-level executives at the Comcast Tower in late April. The result? A standing ovation.
"That's why I do what I do," Wargo says. "I find it exceptionally satisfying to see these students succeed and I can see I'm changing lives. To me, there's nothing better."
Wargo’s personal story is fascinating. He studied at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary before advancing to Villanova and earning a master’s in Philosophy. He then contemplated pursuing a PhD in philosophy at Fordham after having been offered a fellowship, but decided instead to enter the workforce.
"I looked in the newspaper and the first job I got had nothing to with philosophy—it was in construction," Wargo says with a laugh. "Then I moved onto real estate. Really, it was just me stumbling around. I eventually applied to Temple to study economics and while I was working in real estate development I was taking classes at night. I finished the master's and then took two years off to do the PhD. I then went back out into real estate, but I never really was happy and my wife kept telling me I really should be teaching."
Wargo made his teaching debut as an adjunct a little more than a decade ago. Soon thereafter, he became an associate professor.
Don Wargo is unfailingly enthusiastic in whatever he undertakes. He has been a huge supporter of the students involved in the Temple Economics Society and of economics majors in general.
- Department of Economics Chair Michael Bognanno
Wargo openly admits his passion for promoting internships and personal development stems from his own non-linear journey to becoming a professor.
"It really comes from what my life was like when I was younger," says Wargo. "I found when I was in school that there really was no guidance in terms of where one would go to find a job. Through my work here, I realized there was a real need because students didn't know how to go about finding a job and certainly didn't know how to find a job in their particular field in economics.
"I'm now in a job that I should have been in 20 years ago. I was just stumbling around though without direction or any mentors to really look up to."
Economics is a major on the rise and for good reason. Research from the Hamilton Project shows the median lifetime earnings of an economist is somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.6 million. That's more lucrative than almost any other career aside from engineering, and like so many careers today, the path to success begins with an internship.
"We had the Senior Human Resource Manager from the World Bank come and speak with the Temple Economics Society and he actually talked about a pyramid for potential hires and at the top was an intern," Wargo says. "That's where they look first."