Zack Neuhofer shares his path to Purdue and plans as incoming president of AgEcon’s graduate student organization
"I remember the excitement that filled me when I got my offer letter to attend Purdue. I came to the campus visit and met other potential future colleagues and felt at home with the friendliness of Dr. Widmar and Dr. Lusk, and the welcoming the department gave" - Zack Neuhofer
Ph.D. student, Zack Neuhofer grew up in a small, rural central Florida town called Wauchula. As Zack says, it’s the kind of place that shuts down for a high school homecoming parade and Friday night football. It’s also where Zack received exposure to agriculture; his father works in Florida's citrus industry.
When it came time for undergraduate studies, Zack enrolled at University of Florida with early plans to study kinesiology. However, after talking to some of his friends who were majoring in food and resource economics (FRE); Zack decided agriculture was a better fit and made the switch. Zack completed his B.S. in FRE in 2017 and began working on an M.S. under Dr. Brandon McFadden on the effects of the revised Nutrition Facts Label on sugary beverage consumption. “I grew to love the process of research and a passion for consumer behavior and experimental economics while at UF and knew that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D.”
In the Fall of 2018, Zack applied to many Ag Econ Ph.D. programs including Purdue. “I remember the excitement that filled me when I got my offer letter to attend Purdue. I came to the campus visit and met other potential future colleagues and felt at home with the friendliness of Dr. Widmar and Dr. Lusk, and the welcoming the department gave. Ultimately, I chose to attend Purdue due to its illustrious history of producing great agricultural economists and the opportunity to work with my current advisor Dr. Jayson Lusk.”
Zack’s current research continues to examine the effects of product labeling on consumer decision making. For example, whether a product that includes an organic or environmental facts label on the package is perceived to be “healthier” or “better for the environment.” Zack along with other researchers in the department, ran tests to see if the labeling practice affects a consumer’s purchase intention. Zack is also looking into consumer preferences for meat alternatives, such as “Impossible Foods” which mimic meat alternatives. Right now, there’s little research on the topic, so his team is currently determining demographics for the product category and whether new meat alternatives are significantly altering consumer purchases. Lastly, Zack is examining whether there is a political polarization tied to meat consumption. For example, can meat demand be correlated with a person’s political ideology, political party, and education?
This Fall, Zack’s is preparing to defend his prospectus and enter candidacy but will also be taking on a leadership role in the department as the AgEcon Graduate Student Organization’s President for 2021-22. When asked why he took on the role, Zack said it was an “opportunity to give just a little something back to the department that has made me feel so welcomed” and that he’s excited to “be a voice for graduate students in the department and active in conversations with faculty and staff advisors.” He’s also excited to welcome both new graduate students and ones that joined us last year, “due to the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic we essentially have two new classes of students next year. While this year’s students are academically engaged, they sadly have not had many opportunities to engage with our department yet socially and professionally.”
Finally, we asked Zack if there any person or group at Purdue that has motivated him or played a large part in his success in Ag Econ. Said Zack, “Many people have contributed to my successes here in Ag Econ. First, my advisor Dr. Lusk, for all his guidance on my research and helping me publish a journal article! I also must thank my colleagues in my cohort Mario, Claire, Hyejin, Hua, Rimi, and Nick, for being great collaborators and friends. In addition, many graduate students who are in later years of the program, like Carlos, Edeoba, Chloe, Alison, Kendra, Mati, and many more have been great friends and mentors in getting me through the program. Honestly there are too many to name.”