Marx Back At Fuqua After FCC Post
DURHAM, N.C. - When she was trying to qualify for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team, former Duke fencer Leslie Marx endured a grueling winter during which she spent eight consecutive weeks shuttling back and forth between New York and Europe. Tuesdays through Thursdays, she was teaching classes as an assistant professor at the University of Rochester, then every weekend she was flying across the Atlantic Ocean to compete in World Cup fencing tournaments.
Over the course of the season, Marx performed in 18 international fencing events — only five in North America — won the U.S. national title and compiled enough World Cup points to rank as America’s top epee fencer entering the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. She finished in the top 16 at the Olympics and enjoyed a trip to the White House to meet President Clinton afterward.
Ten years after her Olympic experience, life appears no less hectic for Marx. She is now a tenured associate professor of economics at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, teaching game theory to PhD students and managerial economics to executive MBAs while also conducting research. Earlier this month she gave birth to her third child, and she remains involved in the sport of fencing as an assistant coach for the Blue Devils.
And she has just finished a fast-paced year unlike any other, serving as the chief economist for the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C. The post typically goes to an academic economist, for a term of one to two years. Marx’s replacement, who took over in August, also is a Duke economics professor — Michelle Connolly.
“It was a fantastic experience,” Marx said shortly after her return to campus. “It was a lot of work, really busy, long hours every day for a year with little or no break, really challenging and really interesting.
“One of the things I try to do in my research here is to have theoretical research that still has policy implications. After spending a year at the FCC, I realized how little I knew about how policy was actually made. Now I understand much more about how our government works, how the FCC works and how politics affect the way decisions get made.”
The FCC’s chief economist serves as a resource and provides guidance regarding the economic ramifications of issues before the commission, which is charged with regulating interstate and international communications.
One of the major issues Marx was involved with during her year in Washington was the acquisition of Adelphia Communications’ cable television systems by Time Warner and Comcast, a huge transaction that required the approval of the FCC as well as the Federal Trade Commission. Marx and other economists analyzed whether that transaction was in the public interest from an economic standpoint, then she presented the results to the five FCC commissioners and the media bureau.
“One component of that was whether we expected any anti-competitive effects associated with the transaction,” she said. “So there was an economic analysis done of the transaction and we found that there were concerns about how much the transaction would concentrate Comcast’s and Time Warner’s ownership in certain regions, and in the end we imposed some conditions on the transaction to try to ameliorate those.”
Marx was involved in numerous other issues as well, including the recommendation that the FCC adjust its format for the auction of spectrum licenses. Beginning last month, companies began bidding for thousands of available spectrum licenses for cell phone and wireless internet service. Marx expects her successor, Connolly, to be involved in a review of the pending merger between AT&T and BellSouth.
Marx was unable to work with the fencing team during her year on leave, though she returned for the team’s annual home meet as well as the regionals hosted by Duke. She looks forward to working with the athletes again this season as one of head coach Alex Beguinet’s assistants.
It was Beguinet who got Marx interested in the sport when she was an undergrad. After her first exposure during physical education class, she was able to join the varsity team for her final couple of years.
The 1989 alumnus was not experienced enough to qualify for the NCAAs as a collegian, but she continued progressing after graduation and spent much of 1992 at a training center in Poland. That started her on the path to national acclaim and the Olympics.
“That was an incredible, life-changing experience,” she recalled. “Being in the Olympics is amazing. I would love to do that again. The year spent trying to qualify for the team, that was hard. That’s not something I would like doing again.”
Marx continued fencing in competitions for a year after Atlanta but did not have time to practice because she was focused on becoming a tenured professor at Rochester. She still made the world championship team in 1997, but stopped competing after that and didn’t do much in the sport until she joined the Fuqua faculty in 2002 and became one of Beguinet’s assistants.
“I really enjoy the sport of fencing,” she said. “It’s an awfully fun sport so I am really happy to continue to participate in the sport. I love working with Alex Beguinet, the head coach. It also gives me the opportunity to stay connected with the undergraduate community. Being at Fuqua is a little separated from the undergraduate campus life, so it’s fun to have some connection there.”