Applied Economics Teaching Resources

Agricultural and Applied Economics Association

How to Thrive in Agricultural Economics PhD Programs: SAEA Emerging Scholar Award Winners’ Experience and Advice

Ruiqing Miao(a), Jerrod Penn(b), and Loka L. Ashwood(c)
(a)Auburn University, (b)Louisiana State University & LSU Agricultural Center, (c)University of Kentucky

JEL Codes: A11, A23
Keywords: agricultural economics, early career, emerging scholar, mentoring, PhD students, time management

Publish Date: February 28, 2023

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Obtaining a PhD in agricultural economics can be stressful, and few studies offer holistic directions and advice to help students navigate PhD studies, particularly those seeking to transition into a research-intensive academic position. We surveyed and interviewed 21 agricultural economists who won the Emerging Scholar Award from the Southern Agricultural Economics Association between 2014 and 2021. We analyze their experiences to provide PhD students in agricultural economics with insights and tips for a career in academia. This article identifies patterns among these award winners’ approaches to coursework, assistantships, working with mentors, teaching, research, technical writing, conferences, networking and job search, time management and work-life balance, and the transition to new positions. Drawing from our participants, the study also points out a few aspects where graduate programs can improve to enhance students’ professional growth. Even though our target audience is current and prospective PhD students, we believe that this article is useful for postdoctoral researchers who are interested in faculty positions, junior faculty members who seek a smoother transition, and senior faculty members who are advising PhD students.

About the Authors,: Ruiqing Miao is an Associate Professor at Auburn University (Corresponding author: Jerrod Penn is an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University and LSU Agricultural Center. Loka L. Ashwood is an Associate Professor at the University of Kentucky. Acknowledgments: We thank Mohit Anand, Luoye Chen, Lawson Connor, Prasenjit Ghosh, Zhongyuan Liu, Fahd Majeed, Krishna Paudel, Wendiam Sawadgo, Ling Yao, Chengzheng Yu, participants in the focus group conducted at the 2020 SAEA annual meeting, and seminar participants at the 2021 AAEA annual meeting for useful comments. We thank Nabin Bhandari, Brian Cornish, and Erin Matherne for their excellent research assistance. The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interests that relate to the research described in the paper. This research was partially supported by the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and the Hatch program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Hatch project number: ALA011-1-17002).

Copyright is governed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA


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