Amazing Students Profiles

Jessica Van Parys

Van Parys
Jessica Van Parys

Jessica Nicole Van Parys feels fortunate for her experiences at UGA. She recently completed a study with Terry College of Business professors Chris Cornwell and David Mustard showing that the written portion of the redesigned SAT can be used to predict academic success in college better than other parts of the test. She was the recipient of the Graduate School’s Hamilton-Lokey Fellowship, a finalist for the 2008 Marshall Scholarship, recipient of the Honors International Scholarship to study abroad with the School of Public and International Affairs in China, and a fellow in the Center for International Trade and Security’s Security Leadership Program. She is a fellow with Georgia State University’s Economics Department, an intern with the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment in Bozeman, Montana, and a participant in SPIA’s study abroad program in Oxford. She has worked as an intern with the Washington, D.C. City Council, a participant in The Fund for American Studies’ program on comparative political and economic systems in Washington, D.C. and a participant in the Russell-Roosevelt Policy Institute at UGA. She has also worked as an Honors Teaching Assistant, a peer tutor with the Division of Academic Enhancement, an intern with the Athens-Clarke County Public Information Office, and as a STARS work-study student in UGA’s Office of International Education. After graduation, she wants to complete her Ph.D. in economics and become a professor.


Suwanee, Ga.

High School:

South Forsyth High School

Degree objective:

A.B./M.A. in economics, B.A. in political science and a minor in mathematics

Expected graduation:

Spring 2009

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

UGA, the Honors Program, and the economics and political science departments have been very good to me over the past four years. In summer 2007, I was a Summer Fellow with the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. Under Profs. Mustard and Cornwell, I conducted research on how the new SAT predicts academic performance for freshmen at the University of Georgia. The paper won Best Paper in the Social Sciences from CURO and second prize for Best Senior Paper from the UGA Libraries. It also earned me a presentation slot at the American Educational Finance Association’s annual conference in Denver, the CURO Symposium in Athens, and the CURO International Symposium in Costa Rica. I won an Excellence in Undergraduate Research travel grant from CURO and my summer fellowship was sponsored by the Alumni Association, the members of which have been incredibly supportive ever since. More recently, I was interviewed on WGAU radio about our findings. Lastly, the paper is now in review at an academic journal.

Current Employment:

This summer, I split my time between working as a conference host in the Reed community and writing my Master’s thesis. The thesis is on the gender gap in educational achievement.

I chose to attend UGA because…

…it’s a phenomenal deal! I wanted to pursue a social science/business degree, and this is the best university in the state to do just that. With the HOPE Scholarship, going to college in-state was the obvious choice. Moreover, as the state’s flagship university and as a major research institution, UGA offers so many opportunities. Ironically, I did not comprehend the plethora of prospects until my second year of college. This school truly honors hard work with great rewards.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

…to talk with people in the economics and political science departments, lay out and read magazines in the Reed Quad, drink coffee with friends at the Miller Learning Center, take part in National Issues Forums at the Russell Library, and attend book discussion groups organized by the Honors Program.

When I have free time, I like…

…to play tennis! Singles, doubles, practice, drills, matches, you name it. I just picked up the sport, but it’s addicting. I play weekly. I also love relaxing with a movie in my dorm room, going to the Athens-Clarke County Library to watch documentaries, and eating at The Grit.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

I do crazy little things each day. One thing’s for sure, once I know what I want, I go for it! I don’t live out of fear, especially not fear of rejection. Not everyone can say that!

My favorite place to study is…

…the conference room on the 5th floor of Brooks Hall. It’s close enough to my professors so that if they walk by, they will see me studying. Those peer effects keep me honest.

My favorite professor is…

David Mustard is an outstanding teacher, mentor, and human being. I credit his Economics of Law class for leading me to a career as an economist. His communication skills make him an admirable leader and superb teacher. He relates very well to people and has an uncanny knack for formulating interesting research questions. Over the past few years, he has taught me a lot of economics, but more importantly, he has helped me to grow up. His advice is always wise and well-reasoned, and he’s probably the most supportive person I know. Secondly, Professor Chris Cornwell from the Economics Department has been a major influence on my intellectual and personal development. Before I even had a class with him, he helped me navigate options for graduate school, discussed research ideas with me, and even let me use the computer in his office to conduct research.

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

…Ayn Rand. I’ve never connected with a book the way I did with The Fountainhead. I’d love to get into her head.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

…do exactly what I’ve set out to do: earn an economics Ph.D. from a top program, and follow it up with a long career as a professor of economics. Economics is my passion; I feel very fortunate to have discovered it so early. (Being an Olympic gymnast or hip-hop dancer might also be cool. Maybe next time around!)

After graduation, I plan to…

…pursue a Ph.D. in economics.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

…interviewing for the Marshall Scholarship. It was so much fun to experience the combination of adrenaline, intimidation, and uncertainty wrapped into a tight 20-minute package. I also enjoyed the privilege of discussing topics that I love with super smart, super important people. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.