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Meet 2023 Luminary Award Recipient Dana M. Peterson MS’02

As a global economist, Dana M. Peterson analyzes and explains how macro trends affect financial markets and the world economy.

Dana M. Peterson MS’02

UW Major: Economics
Chief Economist and EVP Center Leader of Economy, Strategy and Finance, The Conference Board

As a global economist, Dana M. Peterson analyzes and explains how macro trends affect financial markets and the world economy. She’s an expert in a wide range of themes, including monetary and fiscal policy, trade policy, debt, taxation, inflation, labor markets, consumer trends, and demographics, among many other topics.

“Economics is a very simplistic way to explain very complex concepts,” Peterson says. “It’s a science but also an art — a way to enumerate sentiments and behaviors.”

After completing her bachelor’s degree in economics at Wesleyan University, Peterson became a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Board. Two years later, she moved to Madison to pursue an advanced degree. “It was a great time in my life, being there [at the UW] and being among a lot of other brilliant people, learning from the world’s best economists,” she says.

The unusually large size of her master’s cohort taught Peterson how to persevere. “I learned a measure of competition, that not everything is going to be easy or equal. You have to invest in yourself, in your career,” she says. “Those principles later helped me to survive and thrive on Wall Street, which is a challenging environment where everyone is super smart and super motivated. How do you shine when everyone is competing with each other?”

For Peterson, the answer was a series of accomplishments at Citi, where she was a director in North American economics research for 16 years, followed by a stint as a director in global economics research. Her expertise as an economist led to frequent appearances on premier business news outlets including, CNBC, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, along with interviews in major financial newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and the Financial Times.

In 2020, her public profile led to an invitation to become chief economist at The Conference Board, a global, nonprofit think tank delivering business insights for what’s ahead to C-suite executives of Fortune 500 firms. Peterson is currently the global chief economist and leads the U.S. Economy, Strategy, and Finance Center at The Conference Board.

She also lends her voice to initiatives that aim to enhance and expand the field of economics. She sits on the board of directors of the Global Interdependence Center, which strives to influence world policies for the greater good through cooperative, international engagement among diverse thought leaders. She is also on the board of directors of the National Association for Business Economics, the world’s premier economics trade group, and the National Bureau of Economic Research. Dana is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Forecasters Club, the New York Association for Business Economics, and the National Business Economic Issues Council.

“I know how much education has helped me, and I was very fortunate to have parents who valued education and worked hard to help finance it,” she says. “I want to encourage young people from different backgrounds and experiences to pursue school and fulfill their dreams.”

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