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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Economist honored as best teacher, researcher in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 5, 2005 -- It didn’t take long for Christopher Anderson to make his mark at the University of Rhode Island. The assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, who joined the URI faculty in 2000, was recently named the teacher of the year and researcher of the year in the University’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences.

It’s the first time a professor has earned both honors in the same year.

“Chris has brought a new level of excellence to what is already a great, nationally-known department,” said Jeff Seemann, dean of the college. “As these awards testify, he’s the total package.”

“These two awards reflect well on my department and the people around me,” said Anderson, a Providence resident who grew up in Oxford, Ohio. “My colleagues have provided a supportive and nurturing environment, which helps junior faculty members like me develop quickly.”

As a teacher, Anderson says he must contend with the belief among many students that economics is boring. “I motivate them by spending considerable class time examining an environmental problem, and asking why this problem happens. Then we use economic tools to find the answer,” Anderson said.

Anderson teaches an introductory class in natural resource economics to undergraduate students, as well as several graduate level classes, which he said provides a nice balance to his research. “Teaching keeps my fingers in all different pots,” he said.

A graduate of Brown University and California Institute of Technology, Anderson has had an extremely productive year. He recently started several major research projects, published five research papers, and traveled the world to discuss his research findings.

The URI economist applies experimental economics, game theory and behavioral economics to understand the decisions people make under different regulations. “We use volunteers to play the role of economic agents. For example, we ask them to buy or sell some fictitious commodity based on a given private value,” he said. “Those who make better deals are paid more for their participation in the experiment. While motivated by applications, much of what I do is try to understand the way markets and other economic institutions work."

His current research focus is on tradable fishing allowances, whereby an economic market is created where fishermen can buy and sell the “right” to capture fish. With students playing the roles of fishermen, Anderson replicated the volatility seen in some real markets. When Anderson changed the rules by offering a leasing option to his experimental subjects, he significantly reduced the volatility of the market and dramatically improved market performance.

“When the markets are stable and predictable, participants are happier with the system and the markets are more efficient,” said Anderson.

The URI professor also started research this year to design a mechanism for accurately eliciting public preferences for spending money on land conservation and habitat preservation.