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A student project grows “legs”

An honors paper by two Economics undergrads is published in UO research journal, and selected for an international conference.

Andrea Vedder

Andrea Vedder

Matt Davis

Matt Davis

Matthew Davis and Andrea Vedder didn’t expect their work to get this kind of attention. In winter and spring term of 2014, the two undergraduate Economics students partnered on a joint research project on funding for Oregon public schools for Professor Joe Stone’s EC 418/419 Honors Thesis course.

The project, “The Real Consequences of Property Tax Compression for Oregon Public Schools,” garnered the 2014 Best Group Honors Thesis Award. But Professor Stone encouraged the pair to think beyond the confines of the Economics Department and take it even further.

“Joe felt like it had legs—it was a relevant issue, it was an election year, and he thought we should consider submitting it outside the class,” Andrea says.

They began by revising the article and submitting it to the Oregon Undergraduate Research Journal. It was accepted for publication in the Fall 2014 issue. “That was a fun process, working with them going through revisions and editing.”

Then, Professor Stone received a call for papers from the Journal of Education Finance, which was preparing for its Symposium on the Financing of Education in Oxford, England. He helped the duo edit the piece again and submit it for possible presentation.

Andrea and Matt were stunned when it was selected for the December 2014 conference. The Economics Department assisted Matt with travel expenses so that he could present the paper in person.

“It was an amazing experience to present research alongside so many impressive individuals who were distinguished in their field. Everyone else at the conference had a doctorate, so I felt intimidated…. but proud to have been among those selected,“ Matt says. “The highlight for me was to visit the university itself. There is so much history, and to be there presenting on our work made me feel that we had truly accomplished something.”

Matt currently works as Director of Civic Engagement at the League of Conservation Voters. He found the experience of presenting at an international conference very interesting, and changed his view of research. “I learned that you can tackle real-life problems in new ways and really contribute to changing the world around us.”

As an aspiring features writer and journalist, Andrea also found a few new interests that have shaped her final terms at the UO. “One of the things that I discovered during my research was the need for data visualization…. how to take something that’s very complex and present it in a way that’s engaging. So I’ve since taken courses in html programming and digital arts classes.”

Andrea and Matt are waiting to hear whether their work will be selected for publication by the Journal of Education Finance. For now, they’re grateful for the added experience they gleaned from taking on the honors thesis project. “

Professor Stone taught me a lot about new approaches to econometrics and STATA,” Matt says. “More than anything though, he made us believe that our paper would be a success, even when we had our doubts.”

Honors Projects 2015

The list of honors projects for 2015 is already coming together. Some of the projects that students are beginning work on this year include:

  • Bryan Domogalla, Nicole Korkos, Josh Sherman, Joe Zhu. What factors influence land density for single-family residences in Oregon? Community partners: Oregon Economic Development Commission
  • Winston Hovekamp, Megan McGowen, Ryan Sherrard. Do urban growth boundaries influence the economic vitality of Oregon cities? Community partners: Oregon Economic Development Commission
  • John Bird, Austin Lewis, Pedro Rivera. How can parking zones and fees in UO’s West University neighborhood be improved? Community partner: Office of Parking, City of Eugene
  • Chris Deal, Mad Dodier, Jing Li, Chong Zhao. What are the costs and benefits of a teacher’s classroom experience. Community partner: Oregon Department of Education
  • Jack Bischman, Rimma Gurevich, Ben Noah, Haley Rivet. Achievement Gaps: Why can’t boys graduate? Community Partner: Oregon Department of Education
  • Kevin Frazier. What are the factors that affect gaps in achievement outcomes for Oregon students? Community Partner: Oregon Department of Education