Mueller Lived a Full Sabbatical

Posted: Wednesday, March 23rd 2016 at 4:08 AM

In 2015, during her sabbatical from the FCB, Julie Mueller, associate professor of economics, packed her year with both academic and personal development.

Being Open to the Unexpected

“I went into the sabbatical thinking, ‘I have my research, and I can sit down and work a few hours a day on that.’ In January, I was still unwinding after the fall semester. February happens, and I received an e-mail from Management Systems International (MSI),” she recalled.

MSI is an international consulting firm focusing on economic development projects. At the end of an hour-long phone conversation, they offered Mueller a consulting job to help them assess if USAID-provided Arc GIS programs and data were being utilized in several foreign countries and if so, in what ways.

They reached out to Mueller because of her expertise with spatial and environmental data and because of her research in non-market valuation. The other members of the team were social scientists who typically examine qualitative aspects in their research. Mueller was the only quantitative person on the team. [Pre-trip story HERE.]

Three weeks later, Mueller arrived in Nepal.

She also traveled to Zambia and Rwanda for MSI and was back from the whirlwind by May 5.

“We are completing a choice experiment. We are going to send a survey to all the relevant users of the product and ask them about attributes of the product, which attributes matter, and if they could improve the product, how. I was doing the focus groups’ pre-analysis in person on these trips.”

Beyond MSI

When she returned, Mueller developed and administered a choice experiment survey estimating values for desert springs in the Grand Canyon with her current graduate student, Ryan Lima and colleague from NAU-College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences (CEFNS), Abe Springer. The study estimates the non-market values of desert springs as a function of spring attributes, including cultural values. Little research has been done estimating cultural values of water sources in Grand Canyon National Park from an economic perspective, and the study has the opportunity to provide important knowledge for future policies regarding springs protection.

Mueller, Lima, Springer, and a co-author from NAU’s Social & Behavioral Sciences Erik Schiefer also worked on a study estimating impact of the Schultz fire and post-fire flooding on house prices in Flagstaff. The inter-disciplinary study links forested ecosystems to watershed services and economic values with an applied focus.

In addition, Mueller wrote a $1.7M NSF proposal submission on the Dynamics of Coupled Human and Natural Systems with colleagues in CEFNS. If the NSF grant is awarded, she will co-chair a PhD student researcher housed in CEFNS. [See story on Joint Appointment HERE.]

Personal Goals Accomplished

As an outdoor sports enthusiast, Mueller enjoyed cross country skiing early in 2015. After recovering from serious illnesses as a result of her travel to Nepal, she still accomplished a personal goal of competing in a full Iron Man in Couer d’Alene, Idaho in June. She joined a women’s cycling team out of Phoenix that sponsors its race participants. She traveled to southern California and to Panama to surf, squeezing in 24 surf days between the two destinations. And she was able to visit family and friends in Maine.

This One was Mine

In retrospect, Mueller summarized her sabbatical in this way.

“You know, this one was mine. And I’ve known that for years, that I was going to take it and let it be what it was going to be. And a year ago, at the start of it, it was going to be sports and writing academic papers, which I love. My favorite part of my job is doing mathematical models on my computer. So my goals of wanting to do the NSF, the research projects, an Iron Man, and to get better at surfing… those were my goals.

“I added all of those international experiences unexpectedly on top of it. I did everything I wanted to do plus the extra… Sabbaticals are good,” she concluded, “and it was a sabbatical that was truly ‘mine.’”

More About Mueller

Faculty profile HERE

Franke News Index HERE

Categories: julie mueller faculty 2015 2016 spring 2016 msi management systems international usaid nepal zambia rwanda ryan lima abe springer erik schiefer dynamics of coupled human and natural systems nsf sabbatical