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Economics Spotlight

Ben Costigan: Searching Far and Wide

Ben Costigan“My path has taken its fair share of twists and turns over the last four years.”

Ben Costigan’s career at Transylvania began with heartbreak.

He arrived on campus excited about playing soccer for the Pioneers. However, a back injury early in his first year ended his season and his soccer career.

Athletics had long been a primary focus for Costigan and a positive influence in his life. A bit adrift, he found himself “searching for something that could fill the void.” 

Transylvania’s opportunities to travel abroad and study other cultures presented a perfect antidote for his aching psyche. Costigan threw himself into his Spanish studies, while still searching for a major area of study.

Despite his reluctance to leave the vibrant Transylvania campus, Costigan knew he wanted to study abroad. “Spanish professor Veronica Dean-Thacker frequently begins the first day of class by asking who has been abroad and when everyone else is going—because not going is simply not an option.” During winter term of 2011, Costigan participated in the Business and Culture program at the Escola Superior de Comerç Internacional in Barcelona, Spain.

Costigan also took advantage of Transylvania’s emphasis on a broad liberal arts education. The first term of his sophomore year he discovered exactly what he was looking for: the field of economics. Buoyed by persuasive encouragement from the economics faculty, Costigan realized “that this was what my brain was designed for.”

As his studies progressed, Costigan “decided that a career solely involving economics was not for me. I needed more context, more opportunities to apply what I know to real world situations and to helping others.” His close relationships with political science professor Michael Cairo and Eduardo Nino-Moreno, former director of campus diversity and inclusion, led him to the conclusion that a career in diplomacy and international affairs would allow him to blend these interests.

After graduation, Costigan wasted no time setting his plan in motion. In the summer of 2012, Costigan traveled to Cuenca, Ecuador, to continue his Spanish studies at the Estudio Sampere. He was one of two students nationwide who were awarded scholarships to study in Ecuador by Sigma Delta Pi, the national Spanish honorary.

Immediately afterwards, Costigan headed to Madrid, Spain, to teach English to high school students as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. While there, he planned to work with the International Book Project, a charitable organization based in Lexington, Ky., to build an English-language resource library filled with young adult novels for his students and others in the community.

Costigan was inspired by his own search for a fun and relevant way to learn languages. “With the books I'm collecting, I hope to motivate students to study English in their free time, in addition to the formal training that they receive at school. I also have aspirations of beginning a community book club and creating a pen pal program between my students and high school students studying Spanish in Lexington.”

Costigan ultimately wants to pursue a master's degree in diplomacy or international affairs. He is confident he is establishing the building blocks for that career now. “I know that the year ahead will help in achieving my long term goal of working in economic development with the United Nations, the U.S. Foreign Service, USAID, or a similar organization.”

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