David Ortega, assistant professor, in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) at Michigan State University (MSU) has been awarded the Emerging Scholar Award from the Southern Agricultural Economics Association (SAEA), an award honoring high-performing early-career professionals in the profession.
“How consumers choose their foods is an exciting topic where David’s research has brought new insights,” said AFRE professor and AAEA president Scott Swinton. “Bringing experimental economic approaches to the study of consumers around the world, he is exploring how they shop, what they care about, and how they protect themselves from food safety risks. The SAEA has indeed found a very deserving emerging scholar for this award.”
Ortega was honored at the 2018 SAEA Annual Meeting in Jacksonville, Florida on February 5, 2018.
“This is a nice honor and I am very humbled,” said Ortega. “My interest in pursuing a career in academia came, in part, when I was an undergraduate and attended the meetings of the Southern Agricultural Economics Association to participate in the Quiz Bowl competition. It exposed me to research and what it meant to be an academic researcher and I distinctly remember meeting a few professors and researchers who’s research inspired me.”
“As a graduate student at Purdue, I had the opportunity to present my research at SAEA where I networked and developed a professional relationship with these individuals, many of whom I now collaborate with,” Ortega said. “It is very humbling to be selected nationally by my senior colleagues to receive this award.”
Since becoming an assistant professor at MSU in 2013, Ortega has used his research skills and experiential learning approach to teaching to make important scholarly contributions to the profession, disseminate knowledge, and meet the needs of local, national, and international stakeholders. Ortega’s work spans a wide range of topics, but connects through his use of quantitative preference and choice modeling that he applies to critical and timely issues.
Ortega has published 35 journal articles, and numerous working papers, reports or conference papers, and popular press since joining the profession, and has work published in leading journals, domestically, internationally, and across disciplines.
When asked where his motivation stems from, Ortega pointed to professional and personal mentors.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate to have excellent role models throughout my life. Starting with my parents who instilled in me the value of education. I also had the best graduate advisor any student could ask for — Purdue’s Holly Wang, who received her graduate degrees from MSU AFRE. Along with Nicole Olynk Widmar they provided me with opportunities to pursue my passion for research and challenged me to be the researcher and scholar that I am today. I continue to work and be inspired by them,” said Ortega.
“There are also numerous mentors, professors, colleagues and peers that have motivated me throughout my career. The most recent one is my wife, Sonja Christensen, who recently finished her PhD in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at MSU. Her passion and love for research and in making a difference through her work is contagious.”
Ortega delivered an invited talk during the SAEA annual meeting, on consumer demand for genetically engineered animal products; a study he is working on with his AFRE PhD student Wen Lin, and colleagues Vincenzina Caputo and Jayson Lusk. He also served as a panelist in a session on “Preparing for the Job Market,” geared toward graduate students.
Learn more about Ortega’s research and impact in “Choice Modeling, Grocery Stores, and Global Impact from David Ortega.”