In the past two months, Matt Sekerke has had a timely
paper on Iraq monetary policy published by the Cato
Institute and seen wealthy magazine publisher Steve Forbes
not only quoting his work but agreeing with it.
If he were a junior faculty member, the output would
be considered impressive. But Sekerke isn't. He's an
"I think he has more articles published than most
assistant professors," said Steve Hanke, the Johns Hopkins
professor and currency expert with whom Sekerke has
co-authored seven pieces, including the Cato paper on
A senior from Philadelphia who is an
major and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Sekerke has been doing
economics research at a high level, all under the watchful
and encouraging eye of Hanke, who calls Sekerke "my chief
Steven David, professor of
political science and the faculty member who directs
the Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Program, said
Sekerke has done "an extraordinary job" as a Woodrow Wilson
Fellow. "To have publications and citations in The Wall
Street Journal and Forbes is extraordinary for
anyone, much less an undergrad. Steve Hanke has worked very
diligently with him and worked him very hard, but it's
Sekerke, a pianist and composer, came to Johns Hopkins
to study international relations and to study, practice and
compose music at Peabody.
Early in his Hopkins career, Sekerke sought out Hanke
and asked if he could work with him. Hanke set up Sekerke
with a daunting research task, the kind Sekerke would later
learn that Hanke uses to "scare away a person who is not
But Sekerke not only completed his assignment, he did
it a second time, when he wasn't satisfied with his first
effort. Soon, he was working for Hanke 20 or more hours a
week, sitting directly across from the seasoned faculty
member, who is frequently quoted and interviewed by the
"I started out knowing nothing or, if anything, very
little," Sekerke said. Over time, he said, "the quality of
my work had improved to the point where I could go beyond
providing only background material to producing a draft of
a final product."
That's when Hanke decided the two could co-publish.
Hanke worked closely with Sekerke to polish the research
into something that would pass academic muster. "That first
paper required a lot of revision by him, plus a lot of
encouragement from him for me to revise it," Sekerke
Over time, Sekerke's skills have steadily improved.
"The time from a draft to something that is publishable is
a lot shorter than it used to be," he said.
In May, Sekerke assisted Hanke on an op-ed that was
published in The Wall Street Journal. It argued that
Mexico should "dollarize" its economy, a currency fix that
Hanke and Sekerke frequently advocate.
In September, their Cato Institute paper made the case
for either dollarization or a currency board for Iraq
— both methods for stabilizing that country's
currency and fledgling economy. They were so convincing
that Forbes editor in chief Steve Forbes agreed with
them, in a column he published on Oct. 27.
"All of this is why," Forbes wrote, "the CPA
[Coalition Provisional Authority] should follow the advice
of Steve Hanke and Matt Sekerke and either introduce a
currency board — or make the dollar or the euro
Iraq's legal tender."
In a currency board arrangement, the Iraqi dinar would
be backed by a stable foreign currency, like the dollar or
the euro, and would be done at a fixed rate of exchange.
Such a mechanism, Hanke and Sekerke argued, has helped
stabilize currencies in other war-torn areas, such as
Sekerke said that by working so closely with Hanke he
has learned firsthand what it takes to do world-class
research, and he adjusted his schedule and priorities to
accommodate his growing interest in economic and fiscal
policy research. He decided to drop his studies at Peabody,
realizing he could not do both things well.
"The real transformation," Sekerke said, "has been in
my work ethic. Working with Dr. Hanke has taught me what it
means to work at something at a very high level."
The opportunity to work closely with faculty who are
actively researching in their field was one thing that
attracted him to Hopkins, Sekerke said, adding that he has
been pleased with his experience. Next fall, he plans to
pursue a doctorate in economics with an eye to one day
becoming a professor himself.
Just being around Hanke so much has taught Sekerke
much about how the world works, he said. "There are a lot
of intangibles that I have picked up from being in his
office. You hear or see a lot of things that happen in the
policy world that just aren't evident to those on the
In addition to conducting research, Hanke also has
been involved in managing funds, an area that Sekerke would
like to try his hand at as well. His eye for a good
investment — he was advocating buying gold when it
was $260 an ounce, and it's now over $400 an ounce —
has convinced his friends, he said. "I've developed a lot
of trust among friends, who have said, 'When I have a job,
I'm going to have you invest my money for me.' "