Charles Wolfe ('13 Economics)

Photo of Zoe VanderPloeg What do you do for your undergraduate research?

During my senior year, I studied factors that affect students' academic performance in Spain. Students in introductory finance and economic classes in Spain were given a survey asking questions pertaining to their sleep, work, and study habits. A previous study by Dr. Robert Burrus and Dr. Ed Graham, Department of Economics and Finance, Cameron School of Business, identified factors that affect United States students' academic performance. In addition to identifying factors that affect students' performance in Spain, I compared and contrasted the findings from both studies for a cultural comparison. The faculty advisors for my thesis were Dr. Robert Burrus and Dr. Ed Graham.

What made you want to pursue an undergraduate research project?

A friend of mine conducted a research project and suggested that I do the same. I was very interested in how I could apply the skills I had learned in the classroom to an actual data set. I talked with Dr. Burrus, my faculty advisor, and he suggested that I might join the project related to studying students' academic performance. The topic was interesting because, being a student, I was interested in factors that might affect my academic performance. My advisors, Dr. Burrus and Dr. Graham were very helpful and motivating during my study.

How did you start your research project?

During Fall 2012, I conducted an extensive literature review to identify factors reported in the published literature that affect students' academic performance. In the spring, I was in Dr. Dumas' econometric class, which provided me the skills to analyze numerical and categorical data using SAS 9.2. Once we ran our initial analysis, we found that some of our findings were different for Spanish students than from the study of students in the United States. To better understand our findings for the Spanish students, I interviewed students from Spain who are studying at UNCW. With this new cultural knowledge, I was able to further analyze the data and reach our conclusions.

Was doing your own research fun? Be Honest.

The entire experience was awesome and motivating. I grew as a person and gained new skills for analyzing data and giving presentations. The best part is that I was able to generate new information that others can benefit from.

It isn't required to do research as an undergrad, so what advantages do you think this experience has provided you?

After doing this research project, I learned l liked research and am looking for a career that allows me to analyze data and present my findings. One of the keynotes I took away from my research project is that a person in the pursuit of life-long learning is intrinsically motivated. Because of this project, I now strive to be that type of person who questions and wants to learn more for the richer experiences life can bring.

What recognition and/or grants did you receive for your research?

Following my defense, Dr. Burrus, Dr. Graham, and I submitted our abstract to the Financial Education Association Conference on September 19-21, 2013, in order to present our findings. CSURF provided me a travel award, which enabled me to attend the conference with Dr. Graham and be the presenter.

What are your plans after you receive your degree from UNCW?

I am looking for work after graduation as a data or research analyst in economics or finance. Monetary policy is of specific interest to me. I am confident that I have developed skills that I can apply to research and the analysis of data.

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