What got you interested in environmental economics?
- As an undergraduate I had an interest in both economics and environmentalism. The field of environmental economics seemed to merge the two interests.
What specific training did it require?
- I did four years of graduate school to get a PhD in economics. This included 2.5 years of course work and 1.5 years of dissertation work.
What was the most difficult part of your training? How did you get through it?
- The coursework was rigorous and writing the dissertation was a challenge. A dissertation requires an original idea and a lot of work.
How long have you been in the field?
- 26 years
What role does writing play in the field? What kinds of writing do you do?
- Writing is very important for an academic economist. I write a blog (www.env-econ.net), research papers and tons of emails that readers need to be able to understand.
How do you communicate with your coworkers?
- Mostly by email.
How much do you enjoy writing in your field?
- I enjoy writing very much, especially the blog.
How do you keep up with the latest studies in your field?
- In the old days I browsed journals in the library and photocopied the relevant articles. This took a long time and I still missed a lot of important work. These days, I search Google Scholar and the most relevant research papers are available on my desktop computer in a few minutes.
What texts influenced you or that you consider important in your field?
- These three books were important in graduate school and they are still on my shelf.
- Nicholson, Walter. Microeconomic Theory: Basic Principles and Extensions, 1985.
- Smith, V. Kerry. Environmental policy under Reagan's executive order: The role of benefit-cost analysis. 1984.
- Cummings, Ronald G., David S. Brookshire, and William D. Schulze. Valuing public goods: an assessment of the contingent valuation method." 1986.
What kind of hardships have you encountered in your job?
- It took me a long time to learn how to teach (somewhat) effectively. Also, I’ve been department chair at a UNC system institution during (a) the Great Recession (slow wage growth and reduced department budgets) and (b) a philosophical change about higher education in NC. Both of these have caused low morale amongst UNC system faculty.
- Working towards getting tenure was not always a pleasant experience. The phrase “publish or perish” is no joke.
What do you love about your job? What do you dislike about it?
- I love working with students, especially when they are doing research or when they exhibit something other than a strong dislike of economics. I love doing my own research, especially when one of my papers “hits” a good journal. I dislike the paperwork and daily avalanche of email that comes with being department chair.
What are the misconceptions people have about your field?
- One misconception about environmental economists is from the Wall Street Journal: "The right wing always suspects you of being a tree-hugging environmentalist and the left wing accuses you of being a money-grubbing capitalist." Source: Abboud, Leila, “Economist Strikes Gold In Climate-Change Fight,” Wall Street Journal
Take me through a typical day, week, project.
- Monday: Scramble to get ready for class. Teach from 11-12. Get ready for the rest of the classes that week.
- Tuesday: Get to work excited about doing research. Answer emails, go to meetings, talk to students. End up not working on research.
- Wednesday: Scramble to get ready for class. Teach from 11-12. Work on research.
- Thursday: Get to work excited about doing research. Answer emails, go to meetings, talk to students. End up not working on research.
- Friday: Get to work excited about doing research. Work on research. Teach from 11-12. Attend our department seminar from 2-3:30. Go to the Boone Saloon with the speaker.
Who would you consider a mentor for you? Who influenced or inspired you?
- My professor and dissertation advisor: Glenn Blomquist, Department of Economics, University of Kentucky.
How did you choose the specialization of environmental economics?
- I had an interest in both economics and environmentalism. The field of environmental economics seemed to merge the two interests. Luckily, the methods of analysis fit my abilities and I was able to find a niche in this specialized field.
Do you feel the need is growing for environmental economists? If so, how should we cater to this need?
- The need for environmental economists is growing with population growth and other factors that put pressure on the environment. The labor market for environmental economists likely has provided the correct signals to encourage people to go into the field.