Robert Remuszka was a sophomore in high school when he started thinking seriously about his future. The youngest of three children raised in Nutley, NJ, he sensed he wanted to attend college but would be the first in his family to do so and had little guidance navigating the process.
"I knew I had to take the SATs and wondered what they were for. I was thinking, if I were to go to college, what would I take, and how would I pay? What will I do with my life? Basically, all these coming-of-age thoughts,” says Remuszka.
He went to a nearby Barnes & Noble and started researching, learning about college admissions, fields of study and degrees. He’d been spending lots of time in the same bookstore reading popular social science books of the era, which a teacher had pointed him to: bestsellers by Malcolm Gladwell, along with Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. He was fascinated by how social scientists looked at human behavior and was hooked: He would study one or more social sciences in college.
When Remuszka arrived at Rutgers University–Newark in 2016, he hit the ground running and never looked back, majoring in economics and minoring in math, and carving out an undergraduate career filled with valuable experiences, exceptional accomplishments and honors.
As a freshman he took a math class with Angelo Gatto, a part-time lecturer who fused math and philosophy and revealed the beauty of mathematical problem-solving for Remuszka. He took Intro to Micro and Macroeconomics as well, along with courses in psychology and other subjects, and finished with a 4.0 GPA out of the gate.
Remuszka sought other opportunities as well that year. He began participating in the Rutgers Business School’s Student Managed Fund, where he researched and selected value stocks for the fund’s portfolio, and worked with Braven, a national program that gives low-income, first-generation and college students of color the skills, internships and networks to help them transition from college to strong first jobs and meaningful careers. He also applied and was accepted to RU-N's Honors College late in the year, and worked as a summer research assistant for Associate Professor Mariana Spatareanu of the Economics department.
For a kid who knew nothing about college during high school, Remuszka did more in his freshman year than many students do in their entire college career. But that was only the beginning.
The next year Remuszka dove into intermediate-level economics and math courses and officially declared his major and minor. He also began participating in the Fed Challenge team; continued with the Student Management Fund and Braven; landed a summer internship at Merril Lynch in New York City; and won a Rutgers University Alumni Association scholarship that covered half of his tuition the remaining way at RU-N.
Rob has been anything but ordinary... His continued achievements and remarkable success make me and the entire Economics faculty very proud.
But as he plunged deeper into his studies as a sophomore, Remuszka realized that to do the kinds of economic modeling he wanted, he needed to continue to sharpen his math skills and gain fluency in some advanced computer software.
“My main goal was to gain research skills,” said Remuszka. “That’s one of the reasons I applied to the Honors College. But when I read economics journal articles, I saw that the math was way over my head. I wanted to train to be able to do that level of work.”
During his junior year Remuszka pressed on, taking advanced economics and math courses and learning the Python, R and STATA programming languages to aid in his Econometrics coursework and other research. He also studied with Professor Patrick Shafto, the Henry Rutgers Term Chair in Data Science, gaining exposure to the interplay of machine learning and Econometrics, which he says is an area ripe for research. And he became a full-fledged member of the Fed Challenge team that same year and won a Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Scholarship, which provides first-generation and underrepresented-minority college students with opportunities to prepare them for doctoral studies.
The following summer through the McNair program, Remuzska worked with Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, Professor of Economics at Yale University, as part of Mobarak’s Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale (Y-RISE), which uses microfinance solutions to help alleviate poverty in developing countries and studies how they work when delivered at scale. Remuzska helped with a collaboration between Y-RISE and the nonprofit Evidence Action that encourages rural to urban internal migration to counter seasonal poverty in Nepal and India.
“The idea is to give farmers subsidized loans during their lean season, when there are dips in consumption due to monsoons, and they can repay the loans once things get better,” said Remuszka. “You reduce interest rates to force competition in financial markets, since interest rates in developing countries are usually high, and gauge the impact of scaling it to many more people.”
Later that summer Remuszka presented his Y-Rise research at a national symposium of the Leadership Alliance (LA), a consortium of 30 universities and industries that provides research and networking opportunities to young scholars, and which helped fund Remuszka’s Yale experience.
Economics Professor John Graham, who coaches RU-N's Fed Challenge team and been Remuszka’s main advisor, has nothing but praise for his student.
“Rob has been anything but ordinary. He has been the leader of our Fed Challenge team for several years and has written not one but two Honors College research papers,” said Graham. “In the classroom he is brimming with questions, comments and new ideas for exploration. His continued achievements and remarkable success make me and the entire Economics faculty very proud.”
Outside school, Remuszka indulges his passion for music. He played guitar, clarinet and cello from an early age through high school, continued with guitar, and has been teaching that instrument 24 hours per week at Nutley School of Music, in Nutley, NJ, during his entire time at RU-N, focusing on pop and jazz.
Remuszka’s had a rare break since graduation and later this month begins a two-year stint as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, after which he’ll pursue a Ph.D. in economics.
“Rutgers-Newark has given me all I expected and more,” said Remuszka. “I came here intending to get a great education for great price and got exposure to diversity and so many cultures, frames of mind and ways of thinking, which has been so valuable. It’s been just fantastic.”