What’s Up Alum? – Jeffrey O’Hara

4 Oct

Jeffrey O'Hara CCAS/UHP '00

Jeffrey O’Hara received a B.S. in economics in 2000.  Jeff graduated from the University Honors Program magna cum laude and received special honors from the Department of Economics.  He subsequently obtained a Ph.D. in economics from UCSD in 2007 and currently works as an economist for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

My experience at GW was a transformative time in my life.  I arrived at GW and thought that I wanted to be an FBI agent, so I started as a criminal justice major.  In reality I was drifting.  I took random classes, and while my grades were ok, I had yet to develop focus.

Things started to come together for me at the end of my sophomore year (1997-98).  Al Gore had just signed the Kyoto Protocol and I read a book titled A Civil Action about an attorney that represents poor families that had contaminated well water. I suddenly realized how passionate I was about environmental issues.

I also agreed to be a RA at Strong Hall that summer.  I played a lot of basketball that summer (there was a basketball court on 21st Street back then), and started every morning by dropping a quarter in the vending machine to buy a Washington Post.  In 1998 there were a lot of international economic issues in the news every day (just as now), and it caught my attention.  I switched majors to economics, and for my senior thesis I tried to estimate the appropriate gasoline tax to establish to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from cars.

Those were formative years as it defined a career trajectory for me.  I went on to get a PhD in economics, and relocated back to Washington DC in December 2010 as an economist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.  I currently work on promoting policy for local and regional food systems, and sustainable land-use management that allows food, biofuel, and biomass production while also protecting forests.


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