The strength of the ISET community is best demonstrated by the solid bonds that exist within the community. The number of ISET community members are returning to help the institute by passing on their skills, knowledge and experience to the next generations continues to grow.

One example is Ala Avoyan, one of the most successful graduates ISET has ever had. She finished her studies in 2012 as the valedictorian of her class, before earning a fully-funded scholarship to New York University to pursue a PhD, after which she secured a position as an associate professor at Indiana University. Ala came to Tbilisi for a short visit in 2019 to teach a two-week course in Experimental Economics. Her teaching was entirely voluntary, and a result of her desire to give something back to ISET. Ala also gave a career development talk in which she shared her experience and gave valuable insight into the opportunities and challenges graduates may expect to encounter.

Robert Tchaidze is another prominent example. As a resident faculty member, he taught at ISET in 2007-09 and has been a member of ISET’s Governing Board since 2012. In 2020, he returned to teach a course in Applied Macroeconomic Analysis. Like Ala, Robert taught his course entirely pro bono and hopes to be able to do so again in the future.

Still to come are Robizon Khubulashvili, who will teach a course entitled 'Topics in Game Theory', and Nino Abashidze, whose Environmental Economics programme is – due to its topical nature – expected to be particularly popular. Robizon is currently Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Pittsburgh, having earned his PhD from Pennsylvania State University. Nino, meanwhile, works as a postdoctoral researcher in the Health Economics and Analytics Lab in the USA at Georgia Tech; she studied for her PhD at North Carolina State University, graduating in 2019.

ISET is both extremely grateful and incredibly proud of its community: along with demonstrating what can be achieved after graduating with an ISET degree, and serving as points of inspiration to those who are currently following in their footsteps, it is the highest of compliments to both themselves and the institute that they are teaching the next generations entirely for free. We know that those students fortunate enough to learn from them are as thankful for their efforts as we are.

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It is always a cause for celebration whenever a member of the ISET community – be they student or faculty – achieves new success, but this month has borne witness to some unprecedented good news. Professor Daniel Levy, who has visited ISET as a visiting professor every year since 2011 and is one of the institute's most loyal friends, has been elected as the 26th President of the Israeli Economics Association. It is only regrettable that Daniel is not able to visit ISET this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the community is unable to congratulate him in person. It is a testament to Daniel's tireless work ethic that he is taking on his new responsibilities, since he is retaining his positions as the William Gittes Chair in Economics at at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, as well as his Visiting Professorships at ISET and Atlanta's Emory University, and his Senior Research Fellowship at the Rimini Center for Economic Analysis.

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ISET is very proud of the fact that every single one of its students has walked into meaningful employment after graduation, but it is both pleasing and special when ISET graduates are hired to work for the institute itself. Their contributions and efforts help inspire the next generations, as well as continue to drive the ISET Policy Institute's research.

From September, the Policy Institute will be employing a further three ISETers, all of whom graduated as part of the Class of 2020. Among these is valedictorian Guram Lobzhanidze, who will now work as a Junior Researcher for the Energy and Environment Policy Research Center (EEPRC). Guram has a particularly diverse educational background, having attended university in both Georgia and China, and studied International Relations, Economics, and the Chinese language. Before beginning his role for Policy Institute, Guram taught first-year Master's degree students in both microeconomics and econometrics.

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ISET is renowned for its strong community spirit, which is perhaps best demonstrated by the activities of its Alumni Association, a non-commercial legal entity established in 2016. As well as organising activities and events for members of the ISET family, the Alumni Association is also a useful network for later personal and professional development. As a non-profit group, the Association is purely donation-based, with the top contributors in 2020 being former ISETers Salome Baslandze, Robizon Khubulashvili, Nino Doghonadze, Giorgi Papava, and Lasha Labadze.

The Alumni Association also distributes study stipends and recently launched a new one for 'the best improver', an award given to those BA students who have the most improved GPA scores between semesters. For the fall semester of the 2018-2019 academic year, it was awarded to one student; for the spring semester to two students; and for the fall semester of 2019-2020 to two students. Usually, students with the lowest GPA have higher chances, and the stipends encourage them to increase their motivation to continue and improve in their studies.

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In a first for Georgia's education sector, the ISET MA Class of 2020 underwent its graduation ceremony entirely online. Guest speakers – including Minister of Education Mikheil Chkenkeli, ISET Governing Board Director Jean-Frederic Paulsen, and Deputy Swedish Ambassador Erik Illes – appeared over Zoom, followed by members of the Class of 2020 itself, and finishing with an address by Valedictorian Guram Lobzhanidze. Guram, though displaying the cheerful optimism that has become the mark of any ISETer, told the online audience that while he was under no illusions that the job market and economy had become unforgiving places, he had no doubt that the Class of 2020 would rise to the occasion and overcome the difficulties they will face. Their time at ISET has, of course, more than adequately prepared them for this.

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