This month, the College welcomes Kimberly Rollins as the head of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE). She is relocating from Nevada, where she has been a professor at University of Nevada Reno (UNR).
“I grew up in Maine, so it feels like I’m coming home,” Rollins says. “UConn has a wonderful faculty and the department is strong. I’m looking forward to being part of developing where it’s going in the next decade. I have missed being in a department of agricultural and resource economics. Unfortunately, our department at UNR was closed during a severe state budget crisis. Since then, I’ve been in the College of Business economics department at UNR.”
Regarding her assumption of duties as department head, Rollins says, “I’d like to start by meeting with the entire faculty to visualize where we want to be, determine how to get there and choose the roles each of us will play to achieve our goals.”
She continues, “I see one of my roles as department head as building the undergraduate program. I’d like to see exciting, well-defined programs that draw students to our department. Economics of health, agriculture and natural resources may not be something that high school students think about. We may have to change how we present our department in recruiting.”
Rollins received a BA in zoology from the University of Maine and a Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Wisconsin. She spent ten years in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Business at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, before moving to the University of Nevada.
Her recent research projects focus on water resources, climate change and agricultural production. One project, funded in excess of $4 million through USDA/NIFA, is evaluating food production systems that rely on irrigation water from mountain snow-fed basins and the effects of changing melt rates on water availability.
“I enjoy economics and I care about anything to do with the land. Ecology and economics are a good mix to provide information to policy-makers and individuals that will help to solve our environmental problems.”
“The difference between agricultural commodities and other goods and services is that the underlying production functions depend on inputs and processes from nature, and often these are affected and limited by what other people do and would like to do with natural resources. For instance, in the case of groundwater contamination from a particular industry, who will bear the costs? By what mechanism would a redistribution of costs come about? What are the incentives for reducing risk of contamination? How are these incentives structured? Our students and graduates consider the economics of questions such as these.”
Rollins will continue the department’s mission in Extension. “I believe in outreach, and especially including stakeholders early on in the research process,” she says. “Recently, I spent two days in eastern Nevada working with ranchers and alfalfa growers discussing water resources and conflicts. I want to bring this approach to our department and to let the people in Connecticut know what we are doing and why we are doing it.”
Finally, Rollins would like to increase collaborations with other departments in the College and with other UConn schools and colleges.
As for the move back east, Rollins is looking forward to living in the Storrs area with her husband, a GIS consultant, and college-aged son.