School of Business Administration

Undergraduate economics research proves powerful in graduate school, career prospects

icon of a calendarOctober 1, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Emily Morris

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Undergraduate economics research proves powerful in graduate school, career prospects

Student Cooper Hazel and mentor Timothy Hodge, Ph.D., doing research on a computer.
With career and graduate school aspirations, Cooper Hazel (left) dove into economic research under the mentorship of Timothy Hodge, Ph.D., assistant professor, economics, during his undergraduate academic journey. Photo by Rob Hall.

As a managerial economics student, Cooper Hazel, ECN '21, joined forces with Timothy Hodge, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics, to study the economic and health impact of marijuana legalization. While the research will influence policy makers, Hazel’s experience reinforced his career and graduate school aspirations.

A newly appointed J.D. Power analyst who has his sights set on an MBA or master’s in economics, Hazel demonstrated his commitment and strengthened his capabilities by joining the research sector early. “It’s a great talking point in interviews, [highlighting] the skills I picked up: data analysis, research synthesis and persistence,” he said.

Hazel first connected with Dr. Hodge in his Urban and Regional Economics class in fall 2019. A collection of classroom conversations fostered the connection, which eventually led to their collaboration. “Having a great relationship with professors never hurts, and it helped me here,” Hazel said. “Being a great student helps too as it shows focus, diligence, and ability to work well with others.”

Under Dr. Hodge’s direction, they dove into researching analytics regarding marijuana’s impact on obesity, public safety and the economy.

While Hazel was familiar with Dr. Hodge’s style through his classroom experience, the research project served to cement and advance Hazel’s knowledge and skills. “I would recommend beefing up your skills in data analysis and becoming more familiar with public policy and the area you want to research in,” he said. He also regularly read other economic studies to familiarize himself with the process.

Adjusting to the new responsibilities and expectations was worth the outcome. Their findings could have direct implications on people’s lives.

“Economics is about making lives better and increasing well-being, and this research could help me help Americans,” Hazel said. “I was interested in marijuana public policy, and this was a great starting place.”

Through their research, the duo concluded recreational marijuana leads to statistically significant decreases in drunk driving while also increasing the amount of taxable income in the economy. However, if it increases obesity, then healthcare systems and government officials should be aware. The results of the impact on obesity are still being examined.

The goal of the project was to better understand recreational marijuana’s effect on the economy. Hazel achieved that and more. He now has a mentor and real-world research experience to include on his resume and his graduate school applications.

“Dr. Hodge was an excellent coauthor, mentor, and professor, and I consider him a friend,” he said. “There were certain things I learned about myself and economics that I couldn’t learn in the classroom, and for that I am very grateful.”

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