Cristina Yunzal / Economics

Graduate Student Researcher
1998 – 2006

Cristina Yunzal

After graduating from the University of the Philippines in 1997, I decided to rock my boat by coming to New York to pursue graduate studies. In many respects, adjustment was maddening (try being 21 and apart from your crowd and loved ones), but I couldn’t have picked a better city to help me cope.

I stumbled upon the lab (and its beautiful people) in the summer of ‘98, as I was sniffing around for my first CUNY job. My department, economics, directed me to Steve Brier of the American Social History Project, who then steered me to the lab’s office, a lovely spot in Tribeca and an oasis from the mostly windowless Grad Center facilities.

Though initially clueless as to what my “internship” would entail, I loved the conceptualization of the lab as a marriage site for teaching and technology. While not a techie, I’ve always been comfortable with computers and deeply cognizant of the Web’s infinities. But to realize these for everyone in and out of academia, the process of getting information should itself be a rewarding experience. And so we come to my job description (as I view it, thus far): developing computer and multimedia tools to make even the most seemingly distasteful disciplines (say, economics?) accessible to the broadest audiences possible.

Admittedly, working on The Lost Museum is off-tangent to my field; I’ve been hard-pressed by my loving bosses to connect the dots. But even in the ostensibly non-economics process of creating 3D objects for Barnum’s museum, I become privy to a cutting-edge procedure in which learning is stripped of its drudgery and given an innervating appeal. There are technical and non-technical aspects to the process: physical familiarity with new media techniques, and knowing how to create interfaces across which the principle of universal access is emblazoned.

All these are exciting to me, a future practitioner of the often-misunderstood “dismal” science of economics. If I can somehow visually make guns-and-butter production possibility frontiers less boring or depict why nations trade, and elicit “ahhs” and “oh yeses” of understanding from a wide spectrum of people (congressmen most welcome), then my time with the lab (and which the lab has put into me) will have been well-spent.