Camarillo, Calif., April 26, 2012 – CSU Channel Islands (CI) Associate Professor of Economics Dr. Paul Rivera likes to joke that he’s spent the last 12 years “torturing students with stories about the economics of Zambia or Bhutan or Uruguay.”
This year, he’s busy gathering new stories first-hand as he participates in a fellowship at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, D.C., to help promote trade in developing countries.
Rivera’s work takes him to destinations ranging from Ghana, Kenya and South Africa to the White House, as he works to improve trade among African countries, evaluate trade reform projects, and teach trade and investment courses to USAID staff.
“It’s been fascinating to see how people actually make use of all the theories and concepts we talk about in our classes,” Rivera said. “Teaching is most effective when you can give the subject matter context, some way to make the students understand how and why it is useful. This experience has already given me tons of great examples to share with students, from Principles to Capstone to MBA.”
Rivera was awarded the highly competitive fellowship last year by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The group offers the fellowship as a way of encouraging scientists to engage in the formulation and application of public policy.
Rivera works in the Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade with the Trade and Investment Team at USAID, which focuses on helping developing countries become competitive in global markets.
“Many development assistance programs have historically been implemented in rather inefficient, ineffective and culturally insensitive ways,” Rivera said. “If all goes well, I hope to be able to bring some of my perspective that integrates cultural understanding with economic development in order to create better projects.”
Rivera’s work recently took him to Nairobi, where he taught a course on cost-benefit analysis. He also co-created a textbook and a week-long course on cost-benefit analysis that he’s helping roll out to USAID staff working to increase food security in 15 countries.
Next, he’ll head to the Western Highlands of Guatemala to interview coffee and staple crop farmers about their production processes, the prices they pay for agricultural inputs and how much it costs them to take their products to market.
In addition to frequent travel, Rivera spends time in Washington meeting with representatives of foreign governments and the U.S. Trade Representative to help coordinate trade and investment-related policies.
When he returns to the CI campus next fall, Rivera hopes to not only to integrate what he’s learned into his teaching but also to help launch the careers of some future economists.
“I know many of our students want to engage in careers in international development, and I am hoping to develop good contacts for them,” he said. “I already have a file going with names and contact information.”
Dr. Rivera can be contacted at email@example.com.
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