Dr. John Whitehead has been teaching economics in the UNC system for 26 years. He’s an established presence at Appalachian, having chaired the Department of Economics since 2009 – but not a complacent one.
“Once you get tenure, you’re looking for ways to keep the flame burning, to keep things interesting,” he said. “You get older and students become more important to you.”
Whitehead’s research interests have evolved in ways that reflect this thinking.
In 2007, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council was looking for ways to protect fish stock. It instituted a regulation that limited the size of each fish caught in Florida to 20 inches or longer. Whitehead, a member of council’s scientific and statistical committee, influenced that regulation: He estimated a demand model for dolphin in Florida and he simulated the effects of the new size limit on anglers. For the most part, Whitehead’s students were not involved in this and similar research related to the environment, Whitehead’s specialty.
In recent years, Whitehead has pursued more community-based research projects, seeing in them a way to involve students in data collection.
Undergraduate seniors produced a report for Watauga County that measured the economic impact of expanded trails for bike riders in the Town of Boone Greenway Trail and in Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park. Students also helped measure the economic impact of the Blood Sweat Gears race.
“The skills that (students) learn as part of the research process are useful,” he said. “These are things they can use at their jobs. It’s exciting to see a student get interested in applying economic analysis outside the classroom.”