Alumni Profiles

Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Ph.D. 2013, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Kansas.

Tsvetan began as a Bachelor's and Master's student of general Economics from Vassar College and Columbia Universities, respectively, before making the decision to continue into a more applied field. He says "One of my advisors recommended agricultural and resource economics, which immediately attracted my interest. I applied to UConn, as it has one of the top ARE programs in the country." Following his graduation from UConn, he became a Postdoctoral Associate for the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Tsvetan currently teaches an undergraduate Energy Economics course at the University of Kansas, where he is also working on a number of research projects he explains as "related to renewable energy adoption, residential energy efficiency upgrades, and climate change adaptation." He says, "I am affiliated with the Institute for Policy and Social Research at the University of Kansas, which provides me with an opportunity to conduct more interdisciplinary research."

Alessandro Bonanno, Ph.D. 2007 and 2007-2008 ARE Assistant Professor in Residence.

"I have always been fascinated by research; being a very curious person I ask lots of questions and, when there is no answer readily available, I try to find it myself. Through its Ph.D. program, the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UConn has given me the training and tools necessary to ask the right questions and to find the appropriate methodology to find the answers.That said, I did not graduate from High School knowing that I wanted to pursue research in Agricultural Economics. In fact, I only became introduced to it during my Bachelor's Degree at the University of Catania, Italy; as part of the curriculum of classes there was a mix of many disciplines: Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Agricultural Sciences and (last but not least) Economics. And to tell the truth, biochemistry was what initially held my interest. As things moved on I found myself being enrolled in a post-Bachelor Food Marketing program and spending a lot of the time reading books and papers in Food Marketing, Food Retailing and Quantitative methods. A mix of interesting classes and (even more) interesting people I met during my first years as a graduate student in Italy led me to develop a strong interest in the area of Agricultural Economics.

Although UConn turned out to be the perfect choice, I started my Master's studies in Storrs by chance – I had enrolled in an Italian Master's degree program which offered the opportunities to study abroad in different universities overseas. From those available, I was chosen to attend some M.S. classes in the ARE Department at UConn.

Not only did the ARE master's program fit perfectly with my interests, but the whole experience was thrilling. Since my first weeks of classes I realized that there could not have been a better place than UConn to cultivate my interest in Empirical Industrial Organization and Food marketing. Something that was supposed to be a short-term experience became a longer-term commitment, as I decided not only to finish my M.S. in ARE at UConn, but also to apply for their Ph.D.

This decision was mainly due to the high quality of the faculty, the presence of high level scholars and the possibility to conduct research with the Food Marketing Policy Center.

My early research has focused on the economics of private labels (i.e. store brands), in regard to both consumers' perceptions and their impact on food milk prices. During my Ph.D. thesis, I investigated the impact of supermarket competition in services on fluid milk markets, focusing on prices, cost and demand. Another avenue of my research has focused on measuring the market power of Wal-Mart over its workers, and on investigating the determinants of the company's entry into food retailing. My current research is developing on two fronts: I am continuing to investigate the changes in retail labor markets and I am analyzing the demand for functional foods.

After graduating with my Ph.D., UConn had another amazing opportunity for me: I was offered a position as "Assistant Professor in Residence" for 2007-2008. I then had the opportunity to start my career as faculty in the same department where I had my training, which completed the cycle started in 2002 when I joined UConn as a visiting student. As a Junior Faculty I continued to expand my research and I also taught an advanced undergraduate class in Marketing and Futures Trading (ARE 225).

As the "cycle" is now about to be completed, I am eager to move on and embrace a future that will bring something exciting. Starting in Fall '08 I am appointed as an Assistant Professor of Agricultural Economics at Pennsylvania State University, where my responsibilities include developing both a research program and teaching undergraduate and graduate classes with a focus on consumer economics."

 JunJie Wu, Emery N. Castle Professor of Resource and Rural Economics at Oregon State University. UConn Ph.D. 1992.

JunJie Wu's exemplary career began as an undergraduate in at Henan Normal University in China where he completed his B.S. in mathematics in 1983. After continuing on to receive a graduate diploma in Business Economics in 1987 from Yellow River University in China, he continued on to UConn, where he earned a Ph.D. in Agricultural & Resource Economics in 1992 and became one of UConn's most renowned graduates.

Now the Emery N. Castle Professor of Resource and Rural Economics at Oregon State University, Dr. Wu's research has focused on the balance between environmental and conservation policy, agricultural production and water quality, land use economics and policy, rural-urban interface, and economic geography.

As one of the premier environmental economists in the world working on the link between agriculture and the environment, Dr. Wu's prolific research spans a variety of topics and he is regularly published in top academic journals. Well known for his research in developing models for analyzing factors that include spatial patterns of development, Dr. Wu applies his findings to the field by using his models to evaluate alternative land use policies.

The recipient of numerous research grants and awards, Dr. Wu is an associate editor of American Journal of Agricultural Economics and serves on the editorial council for the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Land Economics, and Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Professor Wu, one of the world's leading environmental economists, is among the most distinguished Ph.D. graduates from the department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UConn.

Facing the challenge of returning to college after a 5 year career as an X-Ray Technician and the birth of her children, Ellen Shea knew that she wanted something different. She began coursework at Manchester Community College and found that she excelled in economics. "I love economics, but I wanted to do something that I believed in," she said. "I really take to heart what I do and Resource Economics combines economics with the management of natural resources - something I care about." After reentering college with coursework at MCC, she found that UConn and the Resource Economics Department provided the individual attention to assist a returning student, and transferred to Storrs.

While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Ellen became interested in combining the Resource Economics program with courses in the sciences. "I took every science I could," she says, "from meteorology to geology to G.I.S. It is a benefit to understand the sciences in combination with the ARE degree. It really adds to your value as an employee."

And, while her initial goal was to finish her coursework with a Bachelor of Science in Resource Economics, Ellen, under the guidance of former Resource Economics Department Head and Professor Emeritus Emilio Pagoulatos, decided to study for a Master's Degree. "I'm not a mathematician," she says "but I realized I was capable and had a lot of strength in analyzing data rather than developing it. Emilio saw a value in that skill set and guided me to get the Master's."

After graduation, Ellen began her career at The Hartford working in Environmental Claims. "I provided investigation and cost/benefit analysis for large environmentally based claims," she said. "And I knew that I wanted to diversify what I was doing. I took a chance and used my degree to carve out a position for myself working in catastrophe management."

Now working as Coordinator for Catastrophe Management at The Hartford, Ellen is responsible for the planning and coordination in handling catastrophes in which the Hartford has insured properties or structures. She helps to determine how the company will respond to an emergency and aids in seeking out the infrastructures that allow the company's "Catastrophe Troopers" to get on the ground to assess damages and aid customers.

Because of her unique background, Ellen is able to use varying aspects of what she learned in the Resource Economics program. "When a catastrophe occurs, I use risk analysis tools such as G.I.S.mapping and satellite technology to pinpoint damaged areas," she said. "During Hurricane Katrina, I used technology tools to estimate wind speeds, and then used economic principles to calculate potential damages."

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina or the massive destruction of the recent California wildfires are examples of the large catastrophes that The Hartford must face. "No matter what the situation, getting to people proactively, contacting the insured and getting displaced people on their feet are our biggest priorities in a catastrophe," she said. "You can never predict what is going to happen or when."

The nonstop, 24 hour a day aspect of her work during a catastrophe makes her position demanding, but Ellen thrives on helping others and finding solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems.

She credits what she does to the support and education she had in the Resource Economics Department. "Because the program is small, the professors see what your strengths are and help you to succeed. It's amazing the amount of support. They don't let you fall through the cracks. Everyone I learned from was incredible."
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Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
University of Connecticut
1376 Storrs Road, Unit 4021
W.B. Young Building
Storrs, Connecticut 06269-4021

Phone: (860) 486-2836
Fax: (860) 486-1932

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