Describe your dissertation, thesis, or capstone (if you completed one):
I explore determinants of entry and exit of general stores between 1867 and 1870 in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi. If general stores are monopolies, entry and exit should be insensitive to changes in demand, as proxied by changes in population. Entry and exit should also be insensitive to other competitive market forces. Through a newly-collected data set of firms and towns, I found that changes in population yield evidence consistent with monopoly power and fail to lead to clear evidence consistent with competition. Changes in total population were correlated with a near zero probability of entry of general stores and were uncorrelated with exit, results consistent with monopoly. I also found that changes in population had no significant effect on entry or exit of firms overall, suggesting that the industrial organization of general stores was not unique. Other determinants characterize the business environment of firms overall, suggesting a complex environment with market forces not always moving freely.
How did you choose your specific area of study?
After a career in the military, I am interested in the interplay between warfare and enduring change. If warring parties hope to achieve better peace, then post-war conditions are worthy of study. After the Civil War, the US South underwent a dramatic economic transition, yet still maintained an oppressive racial environment. General stores have been blamed as a critical “cog in the economic machine” for suppressing African Americans. Studying this topic gives me the chance to pull back the curtain on how institutions and economic mechanisms affect or impede enduring social change.
How did your academic experiences in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences impact you?
I enjoyed learning from the brilliant professors in my department and also from the other students. It was such a collegial environment.
Of which accomplishment(s) during your time at Mason are you most proud?
Working on my dissertation taught me so much about automated tools that I never would have thought about otherwise. The library's Digital Scholarship Center has a lot of resources and expertise on data sources and tools. Professor Noel Johnson mentored me in R. It's cool to feel a level of comfort in something that I used to shy away from.
Are there faculty or staff members who made a difference during your Mason career?
ALL my professors were amazing! Noel Johnson, my advisor, and Walter Williams made complex things understandable. John Nye shared my enthusiasm for exploring the nature of war. Mark Koyama's professional mentorship gave me a reality check.
What advice would you give to an incoming cohort of graduate students?
Get to know the people in your department, professors and students. Attend the brown bag [lunches] and special events even if you feel overwhelmed with your assignments. Narrow in on your thesis or dissertation early.
What are your current career plans following graduation? What are your long-term career goals?
I will be teaching in the National Capital Area.