Could you give a little background information about yourself?
I’m an Assistant Professor of Applied Economics, and I teach courses in Food and Agribusiness Marketing and Management. My interest in this field started at the University of Kentucky, where I completed my undergraduate and masters degrees in Agricultural Economics. I’m a huge wildcats fan, but I’m actually from Ohio. I grew up on a farm in northwest Ohio and I moved to Kentucky in high school.
In undergrad, I also studied French and international economics, and I had opportunities to work and study abroad during summer semesters. I knew I wanted to pursue a PhD in Applied Economics, but I took a break between my master’s and PhD. I worked in Hawaii for two years for the National Marine Fisheries Service. It was great. Then I taught agribusiness at the University of Tennessee at Martin for two years and then recently completed my PhD at the University of Florida.
What did you study for your PhD?
I studied Food and Resource Economics. My focus was on behavioral economics and food choice. I conducted an experiment to explore the impacts of behavioral nudges and participatory trainings on nutrition and healthy food choices in Bangladesh.
When did you arrive at UD?
Just a couple of weeks ago. I finished my PhD in December of 2017 and then I continued teaching for a semester at the University of Florida. I arrived in Newark at the end of July and I officially started at UD August first.
What are your impressions of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, the college and the University as a whole?
It’s impressive. It feels like home already. I’m excited about the high caliber of research, teaching and extension that is central to UD. It seems like there are a lot of great initiatives in all three pillars, and everyone has been super friendly and welcoming.
What will your focus be here at UD?
I’ll still be working on behavioral economics and food choice. I want to shift my focus a bit to explore nutrition interventions in the United States, particularly among low-income consumers, and to conduct research that informs food assistance policies. But I also still plan to occasionally explore ways behavioral economics can inform policy in developing countries.
You grew up on a farm and have an agriculture background, did that inform your agricultural economics interest?
Definitely. I chose my major as an undergrad because I liked math and I loved agriculture. We had a grain and cattle farm and I was in FFA as a kid and showed hogs and cattle at the county fair. I’m sure the experience of keeping farm records for my fair projects informed my choice to study agricultural economics.
What is the most important thing people need to understand about agriculture?
I think the most important thing is that agriculture spans so many different facets of life, particularly with all of the different points along the value chain. When someone opens a loaf of bread, they don’t necessarily think about farming, they think about the sandwich they’re going to make. But there are so many lives in between and decisions—production and consumption, buyer and seller decisions—to get to that loaf of bread and that’s what I find interesting.
Especially now as consumers increasingly show preferences for local foods while we’re operating in a global food system. The conversations around food and agriculture are really similar everywhere that you go. I was in Bangladesh and I was hearing similar conversations from families wanting to know where their food came from, that it was safe, that it was reliable and we have those same conversations here. The drivers of these preferences and conversations are what I find fascinating.
How many classes will you teach in the Fall of 2018?
I’m teaching strategic selling and buyer communication this fall. We’ll focus on relationship selling, which is important in agriculture but also relevant in many other industries. I’m also coaching the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) team. We’ll get started this fall looking at product ideas and putting together the marketing plan. We’re trying to carry on Dr. Toensmeyer’s [who established the club in the early 1990’s] legacy.
What drew you to UD and specifically to the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics?
In my world, I’ve always known agricultural economics to exist because I studied at land grant institutions. But I think, what’s unique to agricultural and applied economics, is that it is applied. We’re asking real world questions and solving, or attempting to solve, real world problems with economic models and empirical evidence. I pursued this field because we’re working on real world policy issues and informing policy with evidence.
That seems to be a top priority of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics here at UD so that was exciting. The Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research uses cutting-edge tools to inform policy, and that aligns very well with my research agenda. I was drawn to this department because it houses such high caliber researchers while at the same time being dedicated to high caliber teaching – our faculty truly care about the students. The dedication to excellence in both teaching and research is really what drew me to UD and this department. And of course, the color blue. Everywhere I go has to be blue.
Besides being a Kentucky fan, are there any other interesting hobbies or activities you like to do in your free time?
I am a very outdoorsy person. I enjoy hiking, trail walking, and going to the beach. A more recent hobby of mine, for the last two years, has been CrossFit. I started with little to no athletic background and am now it has become a major part of life for my husband and I.
I also collect pigs—like piggy banks and pig figurines—and still love all things pigs and agriculture. I don’t have any live pigs yet but that’s coming eventually. That’s the dream.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photo courtesy of Kelly Davidson