Challey Spotlight: Dr. Kerianne Lawson

The Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth is highlighting the impact of our faculty and students at NDSU and in the community. This month, we are shining a spotlight on Challey scholar Kerianne Lawson.

Challey Spotlight: Kerianne Lawson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Economics

Kerianne Lawson is an assistant professor of economics in the NDSU Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise and a scholar of the Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth. Her research areas include law and economics and measures of institutional quality. Dr. Lawson also conducts research on the importance of economic freedom at the local, state, and national level, and how it relates to entrepreneurship and economic growth. She received her Ph.D. in economics from West Virginia University in 2021. Keri and her husband, Alex, live in Fargo with their dog, Nelson, and hedgehog, Dorothy.   

Research and outreach highlights: 

It’s your first year in Fargo. What drew you to NDSU and becoming part of the Challey Institute?

There are so many reasons why I wanted to come to NDSU, but a big draw was the Challey Institute and being part of an interdisciplinary and diverse group that was doing really interesting research. I wanted to be part of a research center where I could do outreach, so that was a nice feature. I also knew that I always wanted to work at a flagship state university with a strong research focus but also great students—and Fargo is a great community, so you know, there were a lot of positives and there weren’t very many cons. Everybody has been so welcoming, from students to faculty to staff. It’s been nice to feel like I’m at home here.

You have a lot of interesting research topics. How did you develop a passion for economics?

I get excited when I get into topics trying to understand why people do what they do, and economics is a great framework or way to think about the choices people make on a daily basis. A lot of my research focuses on responses to policy changes and understanding how people are working under different institutional frameworks. It seems kind of broad, but it all comes back to understanding human behavior, and that’s what I like to think about.

Can you tell us about one of your current research projects?

Right now, I am studying the various impacts of electrical load shedding, or intentionally shutting off power because of strain on the electrical grid. I’m looking at the consequences of this in South Africa. Besides productivity loss, there are a lot of other added costs to losing power. Losing power disrupts people’s lives. I have found that it can lead to an increase in house fires; it contributes to increases in crime; and it can possibly have some other negative health effects as well. It’s important to think about how fragile our electrical grid is, even in the U.S., and understand how important it is to have reliable power, especially through these cold winter months.

You are leading a spring reading group titled “The Rise and Fall of Dictatorships.” What are you looking forward to, and what do you hope students learn from exploring this topic?

I’m really just excited to hear from the students. I think there are going to be a lot of interesting perspectives to go with these readings. I’m hoping that we can get into some perhaps difficult topics, but in a level-headed and informed way. By discussing these really terrible times in history, we can try to learn how they can be prevented in the future. I participated in reading groups when I was a student, so I know how beneficial they can be. I’m looking forward to being on the other side as a faculty member.

What impact does philanthropy have on supporting you as a faculty member?

Obviously, being able to be here is a huge part of it, but there are a lot of other things too. Access to data – I have been able to get my hands on data that I would not have had access to without the resources of the Institute. Having a travel budget – I’m able to attend conferences and give talks at other universities. So, not only am I enjoying the speakers that are coming to NDSU, but I am able to speak at other campuses and be a representative for the Challey Institute and our mission. Working with students – the reading groups are a wonderful opportunity. I’ve found them to be a huge part of the reason why I love talking about ideas with other people.

The Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth aims to advance understanding in the areas of innovation, trade and institutions to identify policies and solutions that enhance economic growth and opportunity. Learn more at
Kerianne Lawson
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