A few of Scott Frame’s work experiences: Having Ben Bernanke watch one of his presentations. Seeing “Hank” Paulson in the halls. Having bomb-sniffing dogs at the entry gate. And, oh yes, having the subject of your labors drive headlines for the past five years.
It’s not necessarily what you expect when you decide to get a degree in economics, but Frame found that his research in residential mortgage markets and their effects on the larger economy was a valuable subject after the international financial crises that began to unfold in 2008.
“I kind of fell into it,” says Frame, who claims he was a “marginally above-average” undergrad at Arizona State. He punctuates his often self-deprecating remarks with a booming laugh that bounces off the marble, vault-like environment of the Federal Reserve Bank’s Atlanta regional office. He first started working there while on a break from his Ph.D. studies at Terry, teaching him “ways that economists can help solve policy and business problems. It opened my eyes to something other than what you’re traditionally exposed to, which is training to be a professor.”
After returning to Athens and finishing his degree, his background with the Fed earned him a junior economist spot at the U.S. Treasury Department. That work “whetted my appetite for the policy-oriented stuff,” he says. Returning to the Fed as a research economist in 2001, Frame realized “there wasn’t a lot of academic inquiry into the expansive scope of government involvement in the market, and the distortions it was creating. Or how that ultimately might be a concern for policymakers because of the systemic risk, ultimately to taxpayers, if there had to be a bailout. In retrospect, that sounds prescient, but at the time,” he says, his laugh building again, “people just thought I was some egghead writing these things.”
When the crisis hit, “there weren’t a lot of us with a similar background, so I had a lot of opportunity with crisis response,” he says. Among them: joining the treasury department team that would engineer the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. “It wasn’t all just ivory tower exercises,” he says of the learning curve that taught him an approach had to be “actionable,” including input from stakeholders at all sides of the table.
Frame recalls early Terry professors like David Kamerschen and Charles DeLorme, who walked him through the process of writing papers, giving him the kind of valuable feedback “a lot of students don’t get until their dissertations.” It was a UGA connection that brought him to his current teaching post at UNC-Charlotte, where former Terry classmate Richard Buttimer is now dean for faculty and research. There, Frame is building a cohort of students and former students for his network of projects. On leave from the Fed, he checks in monthly to keep up with a number of his ongoing research projects there. Briefly turning serious, he says, “I tell my wife all the time that I’ve been able to see and do so much more than I ever expected.”