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Economics and Difference-Making

Photo courtesy of Emily Fenstermacher '20.

Emily Fenstermacher ’20

While studying abroad on a research vessel, Emily Fenstermacher ’20 (economics, policy management) conducted original research on the economics of the tuna industry and the effects of tuna fishing. She then created a policy brief and published a blog post about her experiences for National Geographic. Next, she'll be taking on an internship that includes six months of extensive dive training, so that she can join a dive team studying and combating the impacts of coral bleaching, which is exacerbated by climate change.


Kutztown, Pennsylvania.


Economics and policy management.

Clubs and organizations:  

Community advisor, rock wall monitor, Climbing Team and The Hive.

Favorite book:

The Wisdom of the Native Americans by Kent Nerburn.

Favorite movie:


On choosing a double major:  

I decided on my economics and policy management double major because after I fell in love with economics, I realized that I wanted to do something with my life to cause positive change. These majors became the perfect combination for me, because I found that economics is often used to inform policy decisions, and these decisions can make a difference.

Favorite place on campus:

The rock-climbing wall.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Parmesan rice.

Favorite class/learning experience (and why):  

My favorite class so far has to be Introduction to Microeconomics with [Lecturer in Economics] Tricia Hawks, because it was the class in which I fell in love with economics. That caused me to change my major and my career plans.

As I kid, I wanted to be …

… a mermaid, so I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise that I would want to work with the ocean as I got older.

Little-known hobby/talent:

I like to paint with oil pastels from time to time.

Post-Dickinson plans:

After Dickinson I would love to be working in marine conservation policy development and advocacy. My dream job would be one in which I travel to various locations internationally to develop localized marine policy solutions and then return to the U.S. to advocate and develop funding for these projects.

About my research:

This summer I studied abroad on a research vessel in the Pacific Ocean, through an eight-week Sea Semester program called Protecting the Phoenix Islands. Each of the approximately 18 students on the vessel were able to develop a research project and create a final product in the form of a report or policy brief. After speaking with an economist from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, I chose to study the economics of tuna and the impacts of tuna fishing on the region, and ultimately I created a policy brief for those in charge of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.

My research included hands-on exploration of one of the last coral wildernesses on Earth and sampling of tuna larvae. In addition, I was able to talk with many locals in order to gain insight into the sociocultural aspects that underlie how economic principles are functioning in that region.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had a part in developing an effective conservation plan for the region. In a blog post I wrote that would later be published by National Geographic, I stated: “The work may be difficult, but it is also so very rewarding. We are all among amazing people, giving all we can to protect what we love. What else can you ask for? I certainly can’t think of anything.” That statement definitely still holds true, and I’m looking forward to hopefully going back someday.

Most important thing I’ve learned so far:  

I believe the most important thing my education at Dickinson has taught me is that we all have the potential to make a difference. As someone who wants to go into marine conservation policy, I’ve learned specifically that there is great value in fighting for what you love, and that value cannot be fully measured by monetary means.

About my upcoming internship:

I was recently one of five people accepted into a marine conservation and PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Dive Master internship with GVI for the summer and fall of 2019 in the Seychelles. This internship includes three months of extensive dive training culminating in PADI Rescue Diver and PADI Dive Master certifications as well as a PADI Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Specialty. Upon successful completion of the first three months of dive training, I will be placed into a three-month internship leading a dive team in order to collect data for the Seychelles National Parks Authority as well as several other nongovernmental organizations. While on the reefs, I will be fortunate enough to work on a coral nursery in order to study and combat the impacts of coral bleaching. Additionally, I will have the opportunity to work with the organization I am placed with in developing policy for the region focused on that organization's own specific short-, mid- and long-term objectives in accordance with the United Nations' sustainable development goals.

Read more Student Snapshots.



Published October 19, 2018