Two doctoral students in West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics have been selected out of hundreds of applicants to travel on an all-expenses-paid trip to Sestri Levante, Italy, to present their research at a seminar held by the Instituto Bruno Leoni.

Claudia Williamson and Carrie Kerekes were among only four groups chosen worldwide to present their research at the October seminar, whose theme is �€?The Role of Private Property in a Free Society.�€?

Participants investigated the theme from the perspective of economics, philosophy, law, sociology, history and economic history.

“In the broadest terms, Claudia’s work investigates why some countries are rich while others are poor,�€? said Dr. Peter Leeson, Williamson’s faculty advisor. �€?Her research puts a finger on the precise problem plaguing underdeveloped countries and the reason for the success of wealthy ones: private property rights. The invitation extended to her to participate in this conference in Italy is a testament to the importance of the questions she is asking and the insights she brings to bear in answering them.”

Williamson and Kerekes have focused their research on the work of Hernando De Soto, a Peruvian economist who believes the lack of formal property rights in some countries is the source of their poverty.

�€?Carrie’s and Claudia’s selection is a significant accomplishment and clearly demonstrates the high quality of our students in the economics doctoral program,�€? commented Russell S. Sobel, professor of economics and James Clark Coffman Distinguished Chair. �€?By representing us at this international conference, it will help to increase the overall recognition of WVU among the academic community.�€?

Williamson is the daughter of Claudette Williamson of Point Pleasant and James Williamson of Gallipolis Ferry , Ohio . She recently completed her second year of the doctoral program, specializing in public economics and international development and plans to become an economics researcher.

Kerekes is the daughter of Frank and Nancy Kerekes of Fairmont . She also recently completed her second year of the doctoral program, specializing in public economics and international development. She plans to become an economics professor.

The Istituto Bruno Leoni is a nonpartisan research and educational center whose mission is to encourage research in social sciences and promote the �€?free and enterprising commonwealth.�€?