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Rady School of Management Professor Anya Samek Receives Vernon L. Smith Ascending Scholar Prize


Anya Samek, an Associate Professor of Economics at the Rady School of Management, has been awarded the 2020 Vernon L. Smith Ascending Scholar Prize by the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics (IFREE). The award is named after Nobel Laureate Vernon L. Smith and was created with the aim of inspiring early-career social scientists to follow in his footsteps.

Samek is a behavioral economist who has produced significant research that uses experiments to understand human behavior in the areas of philanthropy, health and charitable giving.

“I’m thrilled to receive this prize,” Samek said. “This prize recognizes the impact of my work, much of which has taken many years to come to fruition. For example, in one of my recent papers that IFREE mentions they took into consideration, we show that early childhood programs – such as preschool – can affect not only academic achievement but also social preferences. This work is part of a larger-scale NIH-funded effort that I am currently leading in which we track the long-term outcomes of children who received early childhood interventions back in 2010.”

Samek noted that another area of her work that IFREE recognized related to using field experiments to improve charitable giving. “In this work, I have partnered with non-profit organizations to help develop and evaluate fundraising techniques,” she said. “I was also a co-founder of the Science of Philanthropy Initiative ( which aims to make connections between academics and fundraising practitioners. My goal going forward is to continue to broaden the use of experiments in the lab and the field to advance social science.”

IFREE noted in awarding the prize that Samek is a leading young scholar in her field. “Samek has emerged as one of the leading young scholars in applying experimental methods to real-world problems in philanthropy, health and education,” IFREE said in a statement.

Samek received her Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. in Economics from Purdue University. Prior to joining the Rady School, Samek was an Associate Professor (Research) of Economics, University of Southern California and an Assistant Professor, Department of Consumer Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is currently a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.