Monday, January 5, 2015

Member Profile: A Gene Nelson

A Gene Nelson
Professor Emeritus
Texas A&M University

What motivated you to pursue Agricultural/Applied Economics as a profession?
My interest in Agricultural Economics was stimulated by Dick Gibb, new PhD from Michigan State University, who taught the introductory course in agricultural economics I took during my freshman year at Western Illinois University. Then I was committed when I enrolled in graduate school at Purdue University and took courses from Don Paarlberg, J. Carroll Bottum, and Ludwig Eisgruber. I immediately became aware of the influence our profession has on both the public and private policy of the food, agricultural, and natural resource sectors.

Why did you join AAEA, and how has membership in the Association impacted your professional development?
I joined the AAEA in 1964 when I began my master’s program at Purdue. Coincidentally, the 1964 annual meetings were held on the Purdue campus. I also wanted my own copies of the Journal – they weren’t available online in those days.

Through the AAEA, the Journal, and the meetings, I became aware of the breadth of the profession and its continuing evolution. These changes over time have allowed the profession to maintain its relevance in responding to the current issues facing society.

As a new Professor Emeritus, it is interesting to consider the Association’s impact on my career. I think it is the networking that is most important. The AAEA and particularly the annual meetings provide the venue to learn from your colleagues and forge collaborations to pursue joint efforts in research, teaching, and extension.

Serving as department head at both Oregon State University and Texas A&M University brought me to the AAEA meetings searching for young talent to hire as faculty members. Over the years, I have always been impressed with the quality of the young people entering our profession.

What advice would you give to an up and coming Agricultural/Applied Economist?
Pay attention to what is going on around you. What can you contribute to the important issues of day? Break these difficult problems into their component parts, find collaborators, and tackle these small parts one at a time, accumulating the results to work toward solutions. In some cases, these collaborators will come from other disciplines. Learn about how these other disciplines do things and bring the ideas home to use in your work.

Get involved in the AAEA – volunteer for committees and become of a member of at least one Section. Sections provide an easy way to connect with other agricultural and applied economists with common interests, and through your involvement you will also influence the content of the meetings through the track sessions.

Finally, tell the story of your and your colleagues’ accomplishments, and take your findings to the decision makers who can use them. I have heard too many times that agricultural and applied economics is “a well-kept secret.” We need to do a better job of communicating how our profession makes a difference.

This post is part of an ongoing series of profiles of AAEA members. Have a suggestion for a future profile? Send them to

No comments:

Post a Comment