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Research Illuminates Undergrad’s Career Path

June 21, 2016

Corissa Marson began her career in the mortgage industry, but when the company she was working for closed in 2013, she chose to reevaluate her future. Marson was interested in math, history, and political science, and upon taking an introductory course in economics, she realized it weaved together all of her interests. She had found her calling. Marson enrolled in the University of Minnesota with a double major in economics and political science, and a minor in mathematics. She was even able to get financial assistance through the Fabel Stockman Economics Scholarship and Wolfsburg Scholarship for political science.

Once Marson's coursework was underway, she realized her passion for research. Her previous work experience had trained her in data collection, but the new systems she was introduced toMATLAB, Stata, SQL and Pythonopened doors for her. Last year, Marson received the Linda and Ted Johnson Undergraduate Research and Experiential Education Award to conduct research with Professor Amil Petrin, and Keaton Miller ('15 PhD), assistant professor at the University of Oregon. Together they looked at the effect of budgetary changes on the type of court cases that are prosecuted and the cost to society. The primary focus was gathering data to see how the composition and number of cases brought to court has changed over time.

“For example, does the portion, or total number, of cases devoted to debt collection increase or decrease? How about evictions? Theft?” Marson explains.

They studied the causes of these changes, looking particularly to see if budget changes affect the type and number of cases prosecuted. The goal of her research was to find a figure that represents the loss to society of not prosecuting cases when budgets are cut.

Marson embraced this “invaluable research experience” as an opportunity to shape her for the real world. The data systems gave her an opportunity to apply what she was learning in her classes to data sets that could be used to answer real world dilemmas. “In class we get a spreadsheet of data that’s already clear, but in the real world, it’s messy,” she says.

This summer, Marson is writing her honor's thesis on changes in the union structure at Metro Transit. She is collecting original data from the Transit Union that dates back to 1921 on the wages and changes that have been made in the union structure for drivers and mechanics. She aims to study how adjustments over the years have affected employee profitability and productivity. Marson’s inspiration and motivation for breaking down the inner workings of the Transit Union originate from her father’s occupation as a union steward and bus mechanic. Her grandfather was also a bus driver for Metro Transit.

“I remember stories about hardships at work, and even as a kid, I wanted people to know about these struggles,” says Marson. “I want to use the experience I’ve gained to tell the story of the transit union in my thesis.”

After graduation, Marson looks forward to pursuing a career in research. “Through an economics major, you learn so much about the little pieces behind the scenes that you don’t necessarily think about,” explains Marson. “Economics teaches you about the hidden connections between variables in an economy. This helps me to know what questions to ask in a research project and how it all fits together.”

Marson can be contacted at

This story was written by Xinyao Qu, an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.