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| From the Chairperson|
The department just held its annual Graduate Research Symposium March 21-22. At this two-day event, students gain valuable experience in communicating their work and receive peer feedback on their research. This year we also hosted 14 prospective graduate students, who got to meet with faculty members and students and were able to see firsthand the type of cutting-edge, high-impact research being done in our graduate program. The symposium concluded with an awards ceremony where the best presenters were recognized (see People and Awards for who won what).
The Graduate Research Symposium is just one example of the many ways the department and its faculty work to prepare our students to "hit the ground running" after completing their program here and embark on their careers. We take pride in our graduates having strong and versatile skills that will serve them well no matter where their career path takes them. Our first feature story looks at the unusual and somewhat dangerous situation that one of our alumni recently faced while simultaneously serving our country and using her training to make a difference in people's lives.
Researchers across MSU are developing new technologies and approaches to increase the availability, accessibility and adequacy of our food supply. This work is increasingly linked to environmental and resource management issues such as climate change and water management. Economics plays an important role in the potential success of these new technologies. Our second feature story takes a look at the Center for Economic Analysis, which is successfully assisting researchers in all fields by helping to explore the social, economic and fiscal implications of their work.
Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics
Wachenheim at an Afghan slaughterhouse opening in 2012.
War Hero Happy to be Home, Back in the Classroom
The dangers of serving in war-ravaged Afghanistan are well-documented and real, even when you're simply trying to help the country's farmers and government officials improve agricultural systems and practices.
With the dangers can come rewards for a job well and bravely done, which is what happened to university professor and Minnesota Army National Guard Major Cheryl Wachenheim when she was awarded a bronze star for her service as part of the 135th Agribusiness Development Team stationed in Zabul Province, southeastern Afghanistan.
For the same mission Wachenheim also received the Army's combat action badge. In civilian life, Wachenheim lives in Moorhead, Minn., and is a professor in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University in Fargo. She received her master's degree (1991) and doctorate (1994) in agricultural economics from MSU, along with an M.B.A in materials, logistics and operations management (1992).
Wachenheim was awarded the Bronze Star for exceptional and meritorious service throughout the 11-month mission in Afghanistan, which started in October 2011. To earn the combat action badge, a non-infantry soldier has to have been engaged by the enemy.
"We operated in villages and towns, so there were people all over the place," Wachenheim says. "But (the Taliban) don't have uniforms on saying, 'Hi, I'm a Taliban guy,' so you don't know what's going on until they're shooting at you."
Wachenheim's combat badge was awarded because a military vehicle in which she was riding came under enemy fire. No one was injured, and her convoy pushed on toward their base without further incident. Wachenheim says such incidents are commonplace in Afghanistan and will continue to hamper the country's recovery until they can be brought under control.
Wachenheim began serving in the National Guard in 1998 as a mechanic. She became an officer a couple of years later and attained the rank of major in 2011. Her first overseas deployment was a 10-month assignment to Iraq in 2008, when she was in charge of medical logistics.
During the Afghanistan deployment, Wachenheim served as an agricultural marketing specialist. Among her many accomplishments in that area, she developed an economic and market analysis of Qalat City in Zabul Province and mentored the provincial reconstruction team. Those efforts prompted local businessmen to invest in a raisin processing plant and nudged traders to work toward creating a chamber of commerce.
Another major accomplishment during Wachenheim's deployment was her involvement in the planning, design and opening of a slaughterhouse in Qalat, which became the first public-private partnership in Zabul Province.
"Everyone got involved, from the butchers to the livestock traders, and it became something people would use and everybody had their input and you ended up with something that works," she says of the slaughterhouse, which sits on the side of a hilltop near one of Alexander the Great's castles.
Wachenheim and others on her agricultural development team also worked with demonstration farms that had been started by their predecessors. Because of security concerns, she and Afghan counterparts often flew around the province, modeling basic extension activities such as vaccination clinics, livestock counts and talks about crop diseases.
"One of our goals was to get them to do some sort of agricultural extension activity on their own," she says, adding that the farmers had no experience with budgeting and planning, and they lacked the know-how to access money due them from the government.
Wachenheim's wide-ranging experience, plus her gender, also gave her the opportunity to mentor Afghanistan's director of women's affairs, discussing everything from agriculture to planning to life skills such as sewing.
"There were quite a few little success stories, which took everything that didn't work and put it in perspective," she says of the mission.
Wachenheim, who also is a mom to 8-year-old Hunter and 9-year-old Ellie, says she has no plans to return to Afghanistan anytime soon.
Her work at North Dakota State University includes teaching undergraduate courses in agrisales, agrifinance and macro- and microeconomics. She also team teaches a graduate course in strategic marketing and management. She has been working on research related to the livestock industry since her undergraduate days at the University of Minnesota.
Currently, Wachenheim and a graduate student are looking at stakeholder decisions about animal welfare-related procedures in animal husbandry.
Who You Gonna Call? AFRE Center Meets Economic Analysis Needs
The Michigan State University Center for Economic Analysis (CEA), under the direction of Steven Miller, aims to enable researchers in all fields, from agricultural production and rural economic development to policy evaluation for economic development and environmental improvement. The CEA's goal is to maximize the economic potential of its partners' research.
Quite often that means putting a number on research impacts that resonates with funding agencies and their stakeholders. Two recent impact evaluations illustrate CEA work on horticultural and nutritional programs.
One of the CEA's recent success stories has been its work with the Interregional Research Project Number 4 (IR-4), a cooperative effort between MSU, the USDA and Rutgers University that assists specialty crop growers in solving pest management challenges to the state's multimillion-dollar harvest of fruits, nuts and vegetables, and ornamental horticultural crops such as greenhouse and nursery plants and Christmas trees.
Michigan growers benefit from this work by having effective pest management tools, which, in turn, enable them to produce a plentiful supply of high quality food and ornamental horticultural crops. This benefits the general public, food processors and other related industries by providing them with a safe, high quality, affordable supply of food and horticultural goods.
"We're really helping in multiple degrees - with other disciplines such as entomology or soil sciences-when pursuing the research or grant funding," Miller said. "It's nice to be able to say, 'With this research that we're building, we can offer a built-in understanding of the actual impact, whether it be social, economic or fiscal.
"Saying that within the grant writing process elevates the chances of receiving that grant. Fund providers like to be able to go to their constituents, or their stakeholders, and say that these individuals have a program and they can show a specific impact."
The CEA also helps to facilitate survey efforts for researchers and program developers across a multitude of topics.
"We are eager to communicate to researchers how understanding the personal, social and economic implications of their research builds support and interest that may be difficult to convey on the basis of the merit of their research alone," Miller said. "Though it is best to build in evaluation at the planning stage, I hope that researchers recognize that it is often possible to build in evaluation at any point along the research effort."
The CEA has built a long-term relationship with the Michigan field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) for conducting grower surveys and using the wide span of NASS statistics in research. The CEA facilitates the data collection effort through an alliance with the Michigan field office and exchange of data and data requests.
"The CEA is always interested in assisting researchers in all fields to understand the social, economic and fiscal implications of their work," Miller said. "In some cases, this entails the CEA taking a direct role in the research effort to build in economic evaluation; in others, it entails strategizing approaches for researchers to build their own evaluation capacity."
The CEA has worked diligently with faculty members from the departments of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics (AFRE) and Food Science and Human Nutrition to understand health impacts of food nutrition education through the MSU Extension-delivered Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Education (SNAP-Ed).
These intervention programs for low-income familiees have important implications for health and have documented potential to reduce future health-related expenses. The CEA and the EFNEP/SNAP-Ed impact evaluation team have surveyed a substantial number of program participants over 15 months to understand the longevity of behavioral changes following the delivery of nutrition education. The resulting behavioral model will be combined with a model of health outcomes related to dietary behaviors to form an expected social cost-benefit model for policy consideration.
Since its inception in 2006, the CEA has submitted more than $4 million in proposals solely or as part
of a wider multidisciplinary team of researchers and has generated more than $1 million in research funding. Miller's team also focuses on helping researchers understand how to integrate economic and fiscal analysis into their existing and future projects on their own or via collaboration with AFRE faculty members with direct research expertise.
AFRE People and Awards
Faculty and Staff
Janet Munn retired as the department's business manager Jan. 4, 2013. Janet served MSU for 40 years, all with the Department of Agricultural Economics, now AFRE. We will miss her!
April Stellard joined AFRE as business manager in January 2013. She came to us from MSU Small Animal Clinical Sciences, where she also served as business manager.
David Ortega (Ph.D., Purdue, 2012) joined MSU in January 2013 as an assistant professor working on economics of food consumption and food safety.
Theodoros Skevas (Ph.D., Wageningen, 2012) joined MSU in January 2013 as a postdoctoral research associate in bioenergy economics with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.
Ruthi Bloomfield was recognized at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Honors Banquet on March 29 with the 2013 CANR Student Senate Outstanding Academic Advisor Award. Testimonials by two students summed up why so many students found her so deserving:
"It is her desire to help people and her unmatched passion that makes Ruthi who she is - a phenomenal advisor."
"Her door is always open. Her flexibility and availability are things that are invaluable to students that are full of questions and need guidance."
Leah Harris won a 2013 Sylvia Lane Mentor Fellowship from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA). She will work with Prof. Kathy Baylis of the University of Illinois on "Matching Policy and Place: Comparing the effectiveness of conservation instruments in different policy settings."
Vivek Pandey placed second for the Best Research Paper Award in the doctoral paper competition at the 10th AIMS International Conference on Management, Bangalore, India, Jan. 6-9, 2013. The title of his paper was "Analyzing Sustainability-Performance Link in a Quasi-Experimental Setup: Evidence from Dow Jones Sustainability Index."
Scott A. Weicksel won the department's Best M.S. Thesis Award of 2012 for "Measuring Preference for Changes in Water Quality at Great Lakes Beaches Using a Choice Experiment" (major professor: F. Lupi).
Richard (Max) T. Melstrom won the department's Best Ph.D. Dissertation Award of 2012 for "Three Essays in Resource Economics: Protecting Non-Use Values through Ecosystem Management and Estimating Recreational Demand to Determine Use Values" (major professor: F. Lupi; thesis supervisor: R. Horan).
The Graduate Research Symposium on March 21-22, 2013, showcased research by 15 current graduate students. Among many great presentations, the award winners in the three categories were:
- Completed Research: Carson Reeling, "Biosecurity investments, strategic interactions, and the role of expectations in livestock disease management."
- Research in Progress: Leah Harris, "Going once, Going twice, bought from the lowest bidder! Designing procurement auctions to improve water quality in the Lake Erie Basin."
- Research at Idea Stage: Erin Collier, "A cross-country analysis of fertilizer consumption in Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, and Mozambique."
The honors banquet of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources celebrated the accomplishments of 10 AFRE undergraduate students on March 29, 2013:
- Outstanding Academic Achievement in Agribusiness Management- Caleb Herrygers.
- Outstanding Seniors in Agribusiness Management - Sarah Lott and Elizabeth Wernette.
- Outstanding Academic Achievement in Food Industry Management- Brittani Blackwell.
- Outstanding Senior in Food Industry Management - Lance Pitsch.
- Outstanding Academic Achievement in Environmental Economics and Policy - David Baum.
- Outstanding Senior in Environmental Economics and Policy - Jennifer Orletski.
- Jake and Maxine Ferris Undergraduate Study Abroad Scholarships - Jenna Falor, Katelyn Horning and Emily Konkel.
AFRE Alumni News (Spring 2013)
Eli Fenichel (M.S., 2005) left Arizona State University in 2012 to join Yale University as an assistant professor in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. On Jan. 31, 2013, he returned to MSU to give a seminar, "Golden Rules: The Distribution and Value of Natural Capital."
James Allen (M.S., 2012) has become research director at the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky at the University of Kentucky.
Martin Angula (M.S., 2010) is a lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Namibia.
Amadou Diallo (M.S., 2011) is program manager at the Partnership for Child Development.
Ana Fernandez (M.S., 2010) works for the World Food Programme in Tanzania.
Natalie (Lenski) Fitzpatrick (M.S., 2012) is a research associate at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan.
Tim Komarek (Ph.D., 2012) joined the Harley Langdale, Jr., College of Business Administration at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga., as an assistant professor in the Department of Marketing and Economics in August 2012.
Andrew Kizito (Ph.D., 2011) has become an assistant lecturer in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Makerere University in Uganda.
Adam Lovgren (Ph.D., anticipated) joined Roll Global, LLC, in Delano, Calif., as a strategic management consultant starting Jan. 7, 2013.
Ben Magen (M.S., 2012) was hired in March 2013 as an agricultural statistician at the Michigan field office of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in East Lansing, Mich.
Ajka Suljevic (M.S. anticipated) transitioned in March 2013 from intern to agricultural statistician at the Michigan field office of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in East Lansing, Mich.
Fang Xie (Ph.D., 2010) is a customer analysis manager at American Express.
Advancing Economics, Transforming Lives is the quarterly newsletter of the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University (http://www.aec.msu.edu/).
Editor: Scott M. Swinton
Writers: Mark J. Meyer
Assistant Editor: Debbie Conway
Editing & Layout Assistance: ANR Communications