May 3, 2016

Jenni Putz: Portrait of a 2017 SVSU graduate

From: Lapeer

High school: Lapeer East High School

Major: Economics and Applied Mathematics

Future: University of Oregon, Ph.D. in Economics 

Jenni Putz enjoys a challenge. Her research record is extraordinary for an undergraduate, and one of those research interests resulted from challenging herself to step outside of her comfort zone. Far outside.

Her first experience on a plane came in 2015 on a trip all the way to India, and the flight included hitting bad pockets of air turbulence.

“It was really interesting,” the Lapeer native said, a hint of sarcastic humor in her tone. “And when we got to India, it was quite the culture shock. Quite the culture shock.”

The Saginaw Valley State University student, though, traveled with a dozen classmates and three professors as part of a 10-day study abroad trip to explore how India’s businesses operated. With an academic spirit in mind and supportive, familiar faces by her side, Putz overcame those initial anxieties and enjoyed one of the defining experiences of her life.
“That was a great opportunity SVSU provided,” she said. “It seemed like SVSU went by so fast. Part of me wishes I could stay another year.”

Putz graduated in May 2017. A first-generation college student, she completed bachelor’s degrees in economics and applied mathematics in four years, capping off a list of accomplishments that included a research portfolio that rivals many doctoral students.
One of those projects involved her experience in India. Putz researched the benefits of short-term study abroad programs with Kaustav Misra, SVSU?associate professor of economics.

Misra said he enjoyed watching Putz develop as a researcher.

“She has excellent interpersonal skills, a hard-working attitude and strong work ethic, which will definitely help her in the long run,” Misra said. “She has transformed and developed professionally at SVSU. I think she took every single piece of advice she was given by her professors during her undergraduate work.”

Their research found students’ participation in a short-term study abroad program had a positive correlation with influencing their career aspirations and leadership skills. Putz presented her initial findings at the Academy of Economics and Finance Conference in Pensacola Beach, Florida in February 2016.

“There weren’t many undergraduate students at the conference, and they were all in one session, while I presented to a group of people who were all professors,” she said. “It was really scary at first, but it was a really interesting experience to present to people who have been doing this for years and whose job is to do research.”

In India, she observed various foreign and international businesses such as Amazon and pharmaceutical companies.

“I had the time of my life,” she said. “I thought it was a very valuable experience and I’d love to study abroad again. It had a huge impact on my life and I’m really glad my research is connected to that, which makes it mean that much more.”
Putz also presented her research at an undergraduate conference at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where her paper took third place among 16 competitors.

Not satisfied with a single research interest, Putz later began examining early college initiatives, where high school students can enroll in programs to earn college credit. She presented on that study in Washington, D.C. in November 2016.

During that same month, through her participation in SVSU’s honors program, Putz presented her honors thesis on a third research interest: income inequality. She previously presented those findings at an international conference in Portland, Maine, where she won an award for her work.

“I’m still very much into income inequality research right now,” she said. “I’m planning on studying public economics: How the government allocates resources such as health insurance. It’s an important field nowadays.”

Putz plans to continue that research in August when she will enroll at the University Oregon on her way to a Ph.D. in economics.

“Hopefully that (income inequality research) can turn into something I can write my dissertation on or work with faculty on something else pertaining to income inequality,” she said. “I feel like the things I’m doing my research on are valuable to a larger pool of knowledge.”

Eventually, she hopes to teach economics at the college level. Misra said Putz has the necessary skills to excel in the profession.
“Jenni’s interest in economics, passion for research and ultra-levels of patience for her students will definitely make her a great professor of economics,” Misra said. “Students like Jenni are putting SVSU on the map.”

Maps are something Putz has become more familiar with. Thanks in part to her flight to India, Putz said she’s ready for her next plane ride to Oregon. Living so far from home, though, will offer another new adventure.

“I’ve never lived anywhere other than Lapeer and Saginaw, so I’m definitely a little anxious about that,” she said, “but it should be another exciting learning experience.”