Company/Organization: USDA’s Transportation Services Division (virtual, Washington, D.C.)
Title: Student Economist
I feel lucky to return to the same office I was in last summer, but also have some new responsibilities. In general, I worked on drafting and publishing various data and documents regarding agricultural transportation. The data that we publish are used by commodity shippers and carriers, scholars, lawmakers, and other researchers. I examined all kinds of data relating to barge, truck, rail, and ocean-going vessel transportation of agricultural commodities and discussed how they impact both the farmer and global agricultural trade. I also conducted research which informs different offices and regulatory bodies, such as USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist and Surface Transportation Board.
What did you like about your internship?
Pretty much everything. I got to learn something new every day, as well as generally gain perspective on the workings of government and economists’ roles in guiding the public discussion. More personally, it’s nice to return to the same position for a second summer and to build on the relationships that I made last year (albeit over Skype calls). Since last summer, I’ve learned quite a bit from my classwork and broader life experiences that I incorporated into my work at USDA.
What are some classes or experiences that helped prepare you for your internship?
English 314! I can’t stress how important communication is for economists. With that—data communication is imperative for economists. Stat 226 and 326 provide a decent understanding of how we think about and communicate quantitative information. Lastly, I’d be remiss to ignore my bread and butter; Econ 301 has been so useful in understanding different market influences and tackling problems from various perspectives. It’s impossible to go wrong by developing your critical-thinking skills through any Econ class that interests you.
Was your internship impacted by Covid-19? How so?
Mostly that I got to dress down and pet my new kitten while I worked. While telework does present some challenges, everyone in my office was great and did a fantastic job at online collaboration. If anything, full-time telework has shown the extent to which the future might look different and has allowed me to prepare myself for a more-online world.
Jackson Novak, economics senior, was selected as a session chair for the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank's virtual 15th Annual Economic Scholars Program Conference for Undergraduate Research, Oct. 22, 2021.