Challey Spotlight: Abiodun Idowu

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 Abiodun Idowu.

Challey Spotlight: Abiodun Idowu

Graduate Student, Applied Economics

Abiodun Idowu is a first-year Ph.D. student studying applied economics and a graduate certificate in new institutional social science at NDSU. He grew up in Nigeria and attended Babcock University for his bachelor’s degree. He then came to NDSU and earned his master’s in agribusiness and applied economics. He is president of the Community of Nigerian Students at NDSU and Vice President-elect for the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics Graduate Club. Abi received a Mancur Olson Graduate Fellowship to support his studies and participate in the reading group “Introduction to Public Choice.” He is married, and in his free time, he enjoys playing soccer.

What drew you to NDSU’s Applied Economics program and the certificate in New Institutional Social Science? 

For my undergraduate, I studied agricultural economics. After that, I went to work as a poultry supervisor. So, I was already in the agricultural world. I was in the field, not just intellectually, but in the actual field making decisions. My wife—though we weren’t married then—was in the U.S., so I started looking for schools with agricultural economics programs. I discovered NDSU, and aside from the funds I was given, it was one of the best programs in the U.S. So, I came for my master’s and decided to stay for the new Ph.D. program. I actually was granted admission at other schools, but it was an easy decision to stay. My advisor is Dr. James Caton, and I was interested in working with him because of his skills. NDSU offers a skillset that is trending now called Python or computation. That was one key reason that I chose to stick around.

You are part of the first cohort of Mancur Olson Graduate Fellows. What do you enjoy most about the fellowship?

I enjoy the food (laughs). I think the research workshops are my favorite part. It feels informal, but it’s so informative that within a short period you learn a lot. One highlight that I really enjoyed was the Distinguished Speaker event with Dr. Sam Peltzman. After the talk, he went around and greeted everybody. He discussed with our table, and that was really fun.

As part of your fellowship, you are participating in a reading group about public choice—a field NDSU alumnus Mancur Olson helped develop. What can you share about your experience so far?

Funnily enough, the topic we are talking about is public choice, right? It has to do with the political economy. Everyone in the group comes from a different background—I think we have seven different nations in the group—and everyone has different ideas about how public choice relates to the government and leaders in their nation. The topic allows people from different disciplines to contribute, and it’s really interesting to see.

Note: The group will continue next spring with readings from Mancur Olson’s “The Logic of Collective Action” and “The Rise and Decline of Nations.”

You mentioned earlier that your advisor is Challey-PCPE Scholar Dr. James Caton. What research projects are the two of you currently working on? 

Everything we do is Python-based. It’s been interesting because I had the intention of working with Python before I started working with Jim, but I was just doing it on the slide and playing around. Now, I do Python every day. Currently, we are working on a project to understand the impact of energy shocks on the economy and GDP. We’re looking at how disruptions in a particular county affect neighboring counties and the economy as a whole. 

What impact does philanthropy have on supporting your education?

It has a huge impact. I’ve been here for two years, and as graduate students, we have to pay for insurance and student fees. With the stipend, I don’t have to worry about that. It keeps me focused on my schoolwork and lets me to participate in the fellowship activities, which I really enjoy. 

The Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth aims to advance understanding in the areas of innovation, trade, institutions, and human potential to identify policies and solutions for the betterment of society. Learn more at
Top of page