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Alumni Profile: AEDE Graduate Kristi Scott Draws on Undergrad Coursework to Navigate Career Path
AEDE graduate Kristi Scott credits herself as a “yes” person; a trait she says has served her well in her life and career. “Wherever possible, say yes,” she says. “You never know the possibilities that can result.”
Being open-minded has served Scott well despite her being a bit of an academic late bloomer. During undergrad, as she worked through the applied economics courses required to complete her degree, she never dreamed that her success in a few key classes would influence her life’s work.
“At OSU, I was an average student,” Scott shares. “I wasn’t really excelling and I didn’t hit my stride until my last year when I took Dr. Sheldon’s public policy class, a price analysis class and a consumer econ class.”
After graduation, she worked as a pricing analyst for a small food company and then as a purchasing manager at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. While working full-time, she also worked towards her MBA. Then in her late 20’s, personal health issues and the unexpected deaths of a handful of young African American acquaintances caused her to take stock.
“People of color were dying really young and at a high rate,” says Scott. “I had read about Japanese culture that boasts the most world citizens over 100 years-old who are healthy and I knew I had to use my skill set to figure out what we are doing differently than other populations and figure out why this was happening in America.”
She inventoried her strengths and her education and determined her niche had to do with those undergrad applied economics courses. At the age of 30, she quit her job, moved from Chicago to Athens, Georgia and spent the next four years researching what drives consumer choices and how decisions affect health outcomes. She also said yes to an unpaid internship.
“An internship at the CDC working on in the Obesity Prevention and Control Branch molded my research and dissertation which focused on subjective measures of food access and outcomes,” shares Scott.
Today Scott is completing her second year as a Health Economics Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) furthering her work and building a body of evidence that she believes will contribute sound evidence to influence health policy and contribute to effective public health programs.
“There is a saying ‘when you know better you do better’ but my work shows that isn’t true,” says Scott. “What you do is not based on what you know, but what you WANT. “
She gives this example: If you are trying to decide what to order from a restaurant and you crave a burger but you are also considering a kale salad, chances are most people are going to order the burger if that is what they really want to eat at that moment. She further explains that in the moment, most people go with personal preference and do not consider the longer-term health impacts or other negative impacts like slow digestion rate or heartburn when they choose the burger over the salad. Scott is poised to continue to research the psychology behind human behavior to further understand consumer choices and offer sound evidence on ways to more positively affect consumer choice in the moment.
“Figuring out how to influence people to pick the Kale salad over the burger is the hard part,” shares Scott. “I’ve spent years trying to make strides towards the goal that I had initially set for myself – to use my skill set to make a contribution to better health outcomes for all Americans.”
Alumni Profile: LaPorchia Collins, Rising Star in the “New” Food Policy and Economics Arena
We recently caught-up with AEDE graduate LaPorchia Collins who just finished her first year teaching at Tulane University. She reflected on her approach to teaching Global Food Security and Introduction to Microeconomics and the future focus of her research.
“I modified a global food security class I first taught at OSU and added some active learning methods to engage students,” she shared.
Through an online program called MobLab, her students conducted in-class economic experiments.
“I vividly remember walking over to a student who appeared to have trouble with the internet connection, only to find he was frustrated because he kept losing money,” further Collins. “He failed to account for production costs, a lesson learned.”
Collins says she is highly motivated by real world societal problems such as food security and examining environmental influences on dietary choices. She has already had the opportunity to apply her research to policy and public decision-making. She published her first peer-reviewed paper, coauthored with AEDE colleague Joyce Chen, in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, the flagship journal in agricultural and applied economics.
Collins is grateful for the mentorship she received while at AEDE and especially the insight and director of Professor Elena Irwin. “I knew I wanted to teach but Elena Irwin was instrumental in my getting to this point.”
Professor thinks Collins is poised to become a rising star in the “New” Food Policy and Economics Arena. “Food production and security are longstanding areas of research, says Professor Elena Irwin. “The subject has received renewed attention due to the growing policy interests in a broader set of health, economic development and environmental issues related to food production and consumption.”