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Q&A: Zinn Goes on the Record about CARE

Thomas Zinn, assistant professor of economics, transferred from the University College and is now director of the Center for Applied Research in Economics.

Date: 9/20/2004
By: Billie Dziech
Phone: 556-1707
Thomas Zinn, assistant professor of economics, transferred from the University College and is now director of the Center for Applied Research in Economics. Zinn has also served as economist for the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce Economic Advisory Council. He has consulted, advised, and prepared impact studies for numerous corporations, agencies and institutions.

Q: Let's start with the transition. Was it difficult?

A: The transition was seamless, thanks to Wolfgang Mayer and the entire faculty of the department of economics. I was welcomed, assigned meaningful work, and given significant responsibilities, so few, if any, adjustments were needed.

Q: In addition to teaching, you have a new job, director of the Center for Applied Research in Economics (CARE). What prepared you for this position?

A: I've spent a lifetime preparing for this opportunity. Working with Chambers, community organizations, developing business and professional contacts, making presentations, and consulting are crucial in designing and implementing our programs and in obtaining funded contract research projects.

Q: Who had the idea for CARE, and how is it funded?

A: Without support from professors Mayer, Goddard, Williams, Zandvakili, and, in fact, the entire faculty, CARE would not exist. It has an external advisory committee and is funded by a Taft Departmental Grant Award.

Q: Explain the center's purpose and your responsibilities.

A: Its mission is education--currently graduate students in the Master's program in applied economics. We provide internship opportunities with businesses, planning and economic development organizations, and the community as a whole. Students participate in multidimensional contract research projects that train them to apply current research techniques to everyday business problems. I develop contacts throughout the business community, arrange internships, and secure contract research projects. I also monitor student work and tap the expertise of faculty whose research interests coincide with our applied projects.

Q: Was getting started difficult?

A: Our objective of offering graduate students competitive internships was fulfilled immediately when Richard Stevie, Manager of Market Analysis for Cinergy Corporation, worked with us to set up a pilot internship with Cinergy in winter 2004. It was a resounding success. During spring, I was contacted about two research projects in regional economic analysis, and we were awarded our first two contract projects. We're currently completing two projects: a fivefold expansion of Williamstown Lake funded by the EPA and a state funded project related to an expansion of a Kentucky state park. Two graduate students worked on both over the summer, and our clients were so impressed they want to employ an intern next summer.

Q: How do you assess the future of CARE?

A: It's very bright. Our opening is not yet official, but we've proved the viability of the internship initiative, we've been awarded two significant applied economic research projects, and a third appears on the horizon. Our clients have been impressed with our research efforts and have promised additional future work. Most important, our students have gained significant experience and developed topics for their Master's papers. The seeds planted by the Taft Grant are thriving.

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