New faces at the Northeast Center

Posted: November 10, 2017

We are pleased to welcome several new scholars to the Northeast Center!

Sarah Denny, Graduate Research Assistant

Sarah Denny, an undergraduate researcher at NERCRD as of 2017.

Sarah Denny is a first year master’s student at Penn State studying Agricultural, Environmental, and Regional Economics on assistantship with Stephan Goetz. In May of 2017, she graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Agricultural Economics. During her undergraduate studies, she worked at World Economic and Environmental Services, where she helped perform agricultural commodity forecasts and scenario analyses to guide private and public sector decision makers. Her interests lie in community resilience and food security, and the unique issues faced in rural areas.

Elizabeth Dobis, Postdoctoral Scholar

Elizabeth Dobis, postdoctoral scholar at NERCRD as of Fall 2017.

Dr. Elizabeth A. Dobis joins the Center in October as a Postdoctoral Scholar in the area of Regional Economic Growth and Development. She holds a doctoral degree in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University specializing in Space, Health, and Population Economics (SHaPE), which she completed in 2017. Her research interest is spatial economic analysis, particularly in the fields of demography, poverty, and health, and her dissertation explores growth patterns and interactions among cities within the American system of cities. She holds a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, which she completed in 2011. Her master’s thesis explores health care utilization of vulnerable and non-vulnerable populations in the United States and was awarded an Outstanding Master’s Thesis—Honorable Mention award from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in 2012. She also is a recipient of the Frederick N. Andrews Fellowship from Purdue University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography, an honors Bachelor of Science degree in Economics, and a minor in Mathematics from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities, which she completed in 2008.

Sarah Rocker, Graduate Research Assistant

A photo of Sarah Rocker, graduate researcher at NERCRD as of Fall 2017.

Sarah Rocker is a doctoral candidate in Rural Sociology in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education at Penn State. Her interests lie at the intersection of food systems, agricultural change, and community development. Her dissertation research focuses on the use of social network analysis (SNA) as a tool for understanding social and community dynamics in regional food value chains. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration with a focus on food policy from The Evergreen State College and an Master of Arts degree in Germanic studies from the University of Colorado. She is a founding steering committee member for the North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN) and a former board member of the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED), a national non-profit committed to empowering students to create cooperatively run food businesses on college campuses, of which she was a founder. She joined the Northeast Center in September 2017 and currently works on the USDA AMS Local Food Resource Mapping and Technical Assistance projects.


Zheng Tien, Postdoctoral ScholarZheng Tien, postdoctoral scholar at NERCRD as of Fall 2017.

Dr. Zheng Tian joined the center as a postdoctoral scholar in October 2017. His research interest is regional and urban economics, focusing on industrial agglomeration, migration, spatial econometrics, and the input-output model. Dr. Tian obtained his Ph.D. in Economics from West Virginia University (WVU) in 2014. His dissertation examines the relationship between industrial agglomeration and input-output linkages among industries. He was the winner of the 2012 M. Jarvin Emerson Student Paper Competition and the 2014 Barry M. Moriarty Student Paper Competition. After graduating from WVU, he worked as an assistant professor at the International School of Economics and Management of the Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing, China, from 2014 to 2017. He was a visiting scholar at the Regional Research Institute, WVU, before joining the center. His research has been published in the Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy, the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, and the Journal of Urban Affairs.