Econ Major Inspired to Address Environmental and Developmental Issues
The late Mildred (Sherry) Barber ’43 (economics) was an independent and ambitious dynamo who earned a master’s in economics from Harvard and a law degree from Boston College within two years of graduation. When she retired in 1980, she was a top D.C. bureaucrat, serving as chief of both data and reporting operations for the U.S. Department of Labor. But she never forgot her UMass Amherst roots and gave back generously, including the establishment of the Sherry Barber Memorial Scholarship for talented students majoring in economics. Among the recipients this year is Virginia Stoyanova ’06 (economics and finance), who also earned the Alumni Award for highest academic achievement. “These awards mean a great deal to me,” says Stoyanova who immigrated to the United States from Bulgaria in 1993. “It’s gratifying that my work has been recognized by the department.”
Having graduated and moved to Texas, Stoyanova says her dream is to work in economic development, and to do so she expects to pursue higher degrees in either economics or finance. However, a bit of experience first in the business world related to finance or economics, she thinks, will help her later on in her career, so currently she is actively searching for the right job. Meanwhile, Stoyanova has put her scholarship awards to good use by studying Spanish in Mexico and immersing herself in the culture for two months this summer.
“My academic experience at UMass Amherst and in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences was wonderful,” says Stoyanova. “I arrived as a finance major in the School of Management, but my introductory microeconomics class captured my curiosity. Macro was even more interesting, so I added economics as a major.” Stoyanova finds the subject most appealing because it helps her understand many of the problems that affect countries on a global scale. “Economics has given me the means with which to address some of these issues,” she says. “Almost daily I use concepts like opportunity costs and sunk costs. And I found the progressive orientation of the economics department in general to be refreshing—a perfect fit for me.”
Stoyanova points directly to Professor James Boyce as being her inspiration, “probably more than he realizes,” she says. “I took Political Economy of the Environment with him and later he was chair of my thesis committee. His passion for environmental and developmental economics is truly contagious. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more eloquent speaker or someone so vastly knowledgeable and passionate about his field. I am very grateful for all the knowledge he has shared with me.
“UMass Amherst is a great school, full of opportunities. There is something for everyone,” Stoyanova declares. “I recommend coming with an open mind, getting involved with the multitude of opportunities available for students, and finding a reasonable balance between academic and social life. Although I was very committed to my academics, I made a lot of friends and participated on the Ballroom Dance Team, which holds two mandatory practices per week, offers lessons and competes—quite successfully—three to five times per semester. I also participated in some volunteer efforts in the community, tutored and was a teaching assistant (although some people would consider the last two as academic activities). If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t change anything about my education at UMass. I had a great experience.”
August 23, 2006