Amazing Students

Xiaofei Li

Xiaofei Li, a Ph.D. student in agricultural and applied economics, has already published several papers, including two in peer-reviewed journals, and is looking forward to starting his career in the banking industry.

Hometown:

Beijing, China

High School:

Beijing October 1st Middle School, China

Degree objective:

Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics, M.S. in statistics

Expected graduation:

December 2015

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I joined the department of agricultural and applied economics as a master’s student in the fall of 2009. After two years of study, I graduated from the program with a Master of Science degree in agricultural economics and thereafter decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree in the same program. In both my M.S. and Ph.D. programs of study, I was under the guidance of my major professor, Cesar Escalante. Concurrently, I also worked on and completed my master’s degree in statistics.

I am thankful for having three professors, Drs. Epperson, Gunter, and Escalante, working with me together on my first research paper. They mentored me thoroughly through the entire process of finishing an academic research paper. They taught me critical thinking and honed my communication skills to express my ideas in a more articulate manner. My first research paper was awarded Outstanding M.S. Paper by my department in 2011.

After four years of study in the Ph.D. program, I have produced two journal articles already published in peer-reviewed academic journals, a paper in an international conference proceedings issue, two articles currently under review at leading applied economics journals, and three more articles being prepared for submission to major agricultural economics journals. In terms of visibility to the academic community in my field, I have always had about one or two papers based on my completed and ongoing research work presented in regional and national academic annual conferences for five consecutive years, and once served as moderator in a contributing paper session at one major conference.

My dissertation research uses the late 2000s Great Recession as the focal point to evaluate and analyze the relative efficiencies, survival strategies and endurance of U.S. banking institutions and farm borrowers during periods of greater risk, uncertainty and economic difficulty. In addition to my dissertation research, I have also explored on investigating other research issues, such as the linkage between immigration control and farm labor demand, the effects of China’s anti-dumping tariffs on U.S.-China bilateral poultry trade, and the relative operating efficiencies of more mature Indian and recently established Chinese microfinance institutions.

My research track record has helped produce a research collaborative agreement with the National Office of the Farm Service Agency, which is under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that has drafted a Memorandum of Agreement with my major professor in order for me to investigate trends in the relative financial performance of several categories of farm borrowers during the last recession. 

In the summer of 2014, I was selected as a regional affair research intern to work in Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Omaha Branch. Under the supervision of the Branch Executive and Assistant Vice President Nathan Kauffman, I initiated and conducted research on the analysis of trends and implications of variations in the profitability conditions of agricultural banks in the country. I received favorable feedback on my job performance from my supervisor and other bank associates I worked with. The internship produced two national conference presentations and a paper for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. In a letter written by Dr. Kauffman for my major professor, he wrote:

“… I have worked with one of Dr. Escalante’s students, Xiaofei Li, during his summer internship with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City last year. The relevance of Dr. Escalante’s and Li’s research was a primary reason for considering Xiaofei’s application as a summer intern. … The framework and research question that Li and Escalante explored in ‘Agricultural Banking and Early Warning Models of Bank Failures for the late 2000s Great Recession’ was an important topic for our (Federal Reserve Bank) District and could turn out to be useful in recognizing future agricultural bank problems stemming from other shocks to the agricultural economy. Working with Xiaofei Li, the lead author and one of Dr. Escalante’s students, in some connected research, it has been clear that he is very well trained as an economist.”

Aside from my research in applied economics, I have also served as a volunteer statistical consultant in the department of statistics’ Statistical Consulting Center. I was responsible for leading independent consultation meetings with my clients and providing services including data preparation, statistical modeling and report documentation. The consulting service I provided was highly recognized by both my clients and my supervisor. My client even offered me co-authorship on the paper that resulted from my consulting project.

Family Ties to UGA:

My uncle attended UGA for his doctoral degree in hydrology and his wife finished her M.S. in medical microbiology in the 1990s. I was proud to follow their footsteps and become the third Bulldog in my family. Moreover, my wife, whom I married while we were both graduate students at UGA, is a Bulldog too.

I chose to attend UGA because…

I have always had a strong connection with UGA. When I was in China, I remember I enjoyed speaking with my uncle on the phone and listening to his stories about studying at UGA. UGA is also the first university I visited when I first came to visit the U.S. in 2002, while I was still in middle school. I can still remember the day I saw the Arch and Sanford Stadium, and the wonderful time I played basketball in the Ramsey Center during that visit.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… walking around the North Campus, seeing those historical buildings and enjoying the nice sunshine; playing basketball in the Ramsey Center; and attending our football home games and supporting our amazing Dawgs team!

When I have free time, I like…

I enjoy learning new things either in the classroom or from my colleagues. UGA has lots of great resources and my major professor has always encouraged me to take any classes I am interested in. In addition, I have so many amazing colleagues in my department to work with.  I can never stop learning new techniques and ideas from them, and they are really beneficial to my own research.

The craziest thing I've done is…

I always see myself as a rational person, so I choose not to do crazy things very often. However, I remember there was a time I challenged myself to ride all the roller coasters at Adventure Island in one day! I ended up having a bit of headache after the last one, but felt like it was a great accomplishment after taking all those different challenges.

My favorite place to study is…

That place would definitely be my own office. I am fortunate that my department provides spacious offices for Ph.D. students. I have my own computer desk and a large bookshelf, which make it easy for me to store everything in my office. My office has practically been my primary home during the past several years as I have spent a majority of my waking hours in it doing all my academic and research work.

My favorite professor is…

I have worked with many amazing professors at UGA. If I have to choose my favorite one, I would definitely choose my major adviser, Cesar Escalante. I’m privileged and honored to have him as my adviser. Dr. Escalante has continuously supported and guided me throughout my program. His wisdom, patience as well as his full support, genuine concern and care he has demonstrated toward his students’ (myself and other fellow advisees of his) personal and professional development have been a priceless experience for me here at UGA.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… Michael Jordan. Michael is widely considered to be one of the best NBA players of all time. I am most impressed with his competitive fire and enthusiasm to win. This enthusiasm is the key reason that pushes him to work hard and win multiple championships. If given that chance, I am sure it would be a memorable afternoon and I believe that what I would learn from him through that brief afternoon encounter would motivate me to work harder in my own field.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… start up my own company and make a revolutionary product that would change people’s way of living.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

I have always wanted to travel around the world. I have been to four out of seven continents: Asia, North America, South America and Europe. I think it is a great opportunity to see different cultures and meet different people. Most importantly, when I travel, I am more spontaneous and don’t live for the future or the past, just in the moment.

After graduation, I plan to…

… work in the area of risk analysis and programming in the banking industry. I am confident that my data analysis experience and econometrical modeling skills would really make a contribution to my future bank employer.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… my graduation day — the day when I get hooded by my major adviser, under the watch of my family members! This day will mean a lot to me as it will be a fitting culminating activity to celebrate my six years at UGA, obtaining two master’s and one Ph.D. degrees. There indeed will be no better way than my graduation ceremony to close one glorious chapter and look forward to another new beginning. I can’t wait to start my own career and make my own contribution to the society.

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