Elizabeth Schuster

The Nature Conservancy

Initial Placement:

The Nature Conservancy

Thesis Title: Farm Resilience to Water Supply Variability: An Econometric Analysis of Risk Management Strategies in the Mexicali Valley, Mexico
Advisor: Bonnie Colby

Peace Corps

Country of Service: Honduras
Service Years: 2000-2004
Service Sector: Rural Development, Watershed Reforestation

How did the AREC program connect your service and help you prepare for your professional experiences?

For my Peace Corps assignment, I was assigned to lead watershed reforestation efforts in a small village in buffer zone of a cloud forest. However, farmers were more focused on sustaining their livelihoods than on planting trees. We found that by achieving organic certification for the farmers’ coffee, they were incentivized to plant trees as part of the organic certification – and it led to an increase in household income. I loved the idea of finding these win-wins to solving complex societal problems around environmental conservation, poverty reduction and other socioeconomic issues. AREC prepared me with a solid foundation and training in applied economics, providing with me a rigorous framework for evaluating problems and coming up with solutions in my current position as environmental economist with The Nature Conservancy.

Why would you recommend that an RPCV join our M.S. program?

My general feeling is that starting with a more specialized field – like economics – prepares you better as you move forward in your career. Later in your career, you can become a generalist but start specific, which gives you a tool box of methods and approaches to rigorously assess and solve problems. Further, economics is fundamentally about understanding behavior and predicting behavior change, which is a practical foundation for any future positions you might obtain.