Discovering a business world that cares about people

Dec. 8, 2023

Student Profile: Stephanie Weiler

Headshot of Stephanie Weiler

If you had asked Stephanie Weiler what she thought of economics in high school, she would have said it was boring and something she would never do.

So, how did Stephanie end up with a master’s degree in applied econometrics and data analytics?

The answer to that comes from her experience in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AREC).  

Helping people and solving problems

Sitting at Caffe Luce near the University of Arizona, Stephanie now reflects on her journey from first-year student to current alumna. For the past three years, she’s been working as an analyst at Wells Fargo, a connection that started as a college internship. 

When Stephanie first arrived at Arizona, she planned to pursue business. But as she considered the different degree paths, she knew she wanted to do something that connected with people. Then, she heard about AREC from some other students, and when she saw how happy they were in their program, she thought she’d give it a try.

It turns out, Stephanie fell in love with the program – the teachers, the courses, the skills. Without this program, she wouldn’t have known there was such a thing as applied economics, and that there’s a business world that cares about people. Her time in the AREC program made her more connected and caring in a way she wouldn’t have experienced had she studied elsewhere.  

Stephanie says, “I love to help. Yes, I’m in ‘industry’ and a big corporation. But you help your peers and want to solve problems.”

It was her drive to solve problems that also led her to this degree path. While she could have pursued a more general business or economics degree, Stephanie was curious to know the “why” behind the principle. She wanted to learn the whole process, from beginning to end. Production to consumption. 

And that’s what she found in the AREC applied econometrics and data analytics master’s program. Contrary to what some might think, the degree is less about managing farms (though that could be true for some graduates), and more about the application of economic technical skills to a workplace in a practical and relevant way. From there, students can pivot the degree toward specific interests. 

The Accelerated Master’s Program

While Stephanie worked on her agribusiness economics and management undergraduate degree, her professors began hinting to her about the accelerated master’s program, which allows students to complete both their undergraduate and graduate degrees in only 5 years. She was already planning to pursue a master’s degree, so this felt like a good fit. Looking back now, she recalls how everyone in the department supported her and believed in her every step of the way.

When asked why she wanted to get a master’s degree, Stephnie says, “With an undergrad, you get a wide variety of skills. For a master’s program, that’s where you begin to specialize and get specific tools for your career path. Your master’s program also provides more of a family than the undergraduate experience. I had a family of like-minded people. You have a supportive community, and you’re all in it together.”

For Stephanie, the process of getting a master’s degree was more than just acquiring knowledge. Yes, she gained technical skills for statistical analysis, which she knew she would need in a competitive workforce. But deeper than that, students develop a foundational understanding of how to approach data; how to communicate data; how to determine biases within the data; and how to analyze the data and apply the models. All the current processes out there (e.g. AI-powered data analysis) are built off these foundational models. The master’s degree program is critical for developing this range of thinking.

But not everything came easily to Stephanie. She recalls how, coming out of her undergraduate program, she didn’t have the math skills needed to succeed in the master’s program. She had to go out of her way to prepare for it. She took extra courses and boot camps to level up her math skills to succeed. It was challenging to add this extra work, but it was worth it.

In doing an accelerated master’s program, versus a traditional master’s degree path, Stephanie appreciated the consistent support of having access to the same professors and resources. She recommends an accelerated master’s program for students who are working toward a particular goal or along a competitive timeline. An additional benefit of an accelerated master’s program is that students who receive grants or scholarships for their undergraduate work need only provide funding for the one extra year of graduate work. 

Some of Stephanie’s noteworthy experiences in the applied econometrics and data analytics master’s program include a case study producing a financial analysis of Whole Foods; and AREC559, Advanced Applied Econometrics with Professor Gary Thompson, in which students solve real-world problems for American Express professionals. She also completed two internships: one with Shamrock Food Company, performing regression analysis; and one with Wells Fargo, which got her foot in the door for her current job.

All in all, the accelerated master’s program gave Stephanie an edge when it came to job hunting. There are a lot of technically savvy people in the workforce, but there’s a shortage of analysts who can distill the data into key takeaways and actionable results, making this skill highly desirable in a job candidate. Stephanie learned how to articulate hard findings in common everyday language, able to explain a data graph to a manager at a corporation so that it makes sense and is relevant to them.

She says that students may not even realize how all the classes coalesce into a cohesive learning experience until they’re sitting in the interview room analyzing a data set for a potential hiring committee. 

Stephanie’s parting advice

When asked who should pursue an AREC accelerated master’s degree, she takes a beat to consider. After a moment, she replies that, while it’s not for everyone, this program is for students who have a drive to learn more about the application of economics – the “why”s, the ins and outs. It’s for students who are self-motivated, driven and responsible. 

For time management, Stephanie relied heavily on her planner and didn’t try to keep everything in her head. She also went to the gym a lot to keep herself balanced and healthy. But she encourages everyone to determine their own schedule to meet their own needs to take care of themselves.

For current AREC students, Stephanie offers this final piece of advice: “If you ever feel confused, or that you don’t understand a concept, don’t wait to ask for help. There are plenty of resources everywhere. Raise your hand. Ask the questions. Be curious.” 

Also, study coding. 


To learn more about degree programs in Agricultural and Resource Economics, click here.
To learn more about the AREC Accelerated Master’s Programs, click here.