College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Agricultural & Resource Economics

AREC Celebrates the Holidays and Graduate Student Awards

The AREC Holiday & Graduate Student Awards Luncheon

Several graduate students received awards and scholarships for their papers and dissertations on Thursday Dec. 8  at the holiday party in the AREC conference room.

Over forty people attended the luncheon, including staff, faculty, fellow graduate students and people representing the families that established the scholarship funds. (Pictured Above: Martha Evers and John Moore)

“One reason we have awards is to have an incentive system to motivate our students as they learn about the craft and art of being a professional economist, and a lot of that has to do with writing,” said Erik Lichtenberg, the professor who presented the awards. “It’s about telling stories that are coherent and make sense.”

The Rhona Lantin Memorial Scholarship for best paper by a first-year student was awarded to Julian Gomez-Gelvez received. His paper was titled On the Short-Run Economics of Telecommuting. The scholarship is in memory of former student Rhona Lantin.

Gomez-Gelvez’s paper focused on telecommuting and the short term impacts it had on people traveling. The data he used was from Bogota, Columbia, and he found that there was an increase in travel not related to work.

“I have a background in transportation,” said Gomez-Gelvez. “I had started working on a model of travel demand and realized the model was useful for explaining discretionary travel.”

For the best paper by a  second year graduate student, Jun Zhang won the Bessie DeVault Scholarship with Does Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program  Reduce Adults and Children’s Food Insecurity? Evidence from the Current Population Survey. The award is named for the wife of Dr. Samuel H. DeVault, who was the chair for the Department of Agricultural Economics from 1922 to 1951.

“I want to thank the department for all their support towards the research of our ideas,” said Jun Zhang. “Thank you, also, for the help to travel, it has opened my eyes.”

Two graduate students won the Dr. and Mrs. Bill V. Lessley Dissertation Excellence Award. Dr. Bill V. Lessley was an esteemed faculty member from 1965 to 1991. He won several awards for teaching during his time at the University of Maryland and was a member of several interstate committees involved with water quality and nutrient reduction in the Chesapeake Bay.

Lessley’s daughter Martha Evers presented the award. Joseph Maher won for Essays on Energy Efficiency and Forest Conservation, and Magda Tsaneva won for Human Capital Investments: Preferences, Opportunities, Constraints. Tsaneva’s dissertation focused on education in Indonesia and how financial crisis impact schooling. Maher’s primary topic was energy efficiency, and he used three papers for his research.

Maher now works at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center as a fellow, and Tsaneva is an assistant professor of economics at Clark University.

“Another step [towards being a professional economist] is getting work out into the public and them seeing it,” said Lichtenberg. “It’s important to be out there and let other see your work.”

The John R. and Marjorie C. Moore Award is given to the graduate student who made the best effort to publish a paper in an academic journal the preceding year. This year, it went to graduate student Youpei Yan, for her paper titled Unintended Land Use Effects of Afforestation in China.

The award  is named John Moore, who was a notable faculty member from 1963 to 1995, and Marjorie Moore, who was involved in supervising student teachers at the university and a part of the faculty wives club. John Moore presented the award to Yan.

“This began as my first research paper, and I had no idea what academic life looked like at that time,” said Yan. “Now I’m submitting it to a journal. Recognition of the effort is the largest motivation.”

Another award presented was  the Dr. Bruce L. Gardner Memorial Scholarship, which was given to graduate student Fabliha Ibnat. The scholarship is in memory of Gardner, who joined the faculty in 1981 and also was an assistant secretary for economics in the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1989 to 1992. The scholarship places an emphasis on international studies.

“It’s always been a long term goal of mine to study agricultural and resource economics,” said Ibnat. “This scholarship is the reason I was able to come to this university.”

The final scholarship presented was the Bruce and Mary Ann Gardner Dissertation Enhancement Award to Uttara Balakrishnan. This award is given in honor of Dr. Gardner and Mrs. Gardner to help a student obtain resources that will assist the student with conducting his or her research. Balakrishnan’s dissertation focuses on examining public programs in India.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do the work I am currently doing without this,” said Balakishnan.

Overall, the event highlighted the camaraderie that is cultivated within the department, as well as having an opportunity to say thank you for the generous contributions that have been given to the department's scholarship funds.

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