Family on one hand and the other
by Matt Jardin |
When Katherine Longuevan accepted her Bachelor of Arts in economics during the Spring 2023 Commencement Ceremony, most of the cheers came from right behind her rather than from in the audience.
Behind Katherine at the May 2023 event was her mother, Sandra Longuevan, who also just earned her economics degree. They were followed by Joseph Longuevan, Katherine’s brother and Sandra’s son, who obtained his economics degree in spring 2020 during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when all in-person gatherings were canceled, including his own commencement ceremony.
“We did all of it together,” said Katherine. “We went to classes together. We did our homework together. We got angry and went through all the same stressors together. So to be able to walk with my mom, as well as my brother who had already finished his journey and was able to come back, was just surreal and a beautiful experience to be able to share with everybody.”
Not only was Joseph the first to receive his economics degree, but he was also the first to fall in love with the field. Originally intending to study political science, his interest was piqued during a high school economics class. That interest grew to a proper passion after he came to UAA and began working with the economics faculty in the College of Business and Public Policy.
“At the end of the day, econ made me realize I love evaluating policies on quantitative merits compared to the way political scientists make arguments,” said Joseph. “The way economists think about problems — the structural approach and scientific rigor — really appealed to me because I like being very diligent about how I go about answering questions.”
Before leaving Alaska to pursue his economics graduate degree, Joseph talked up the idea of not only enrolling at UAA to Katherine and Sandra, but likewise majoring in economics. Utilizing UAA’s 49th Finishers Scholarship — a fund built to assist those returning to college after taking some time off — they did exactly that.
For Sandra, who was one class shy of earning her marketing degree in California before purchasing a thriving fly-fishing business and starting a family, the return to higher education after such a long time away took some getting used to. Fortunately, the same faculty who instilled a passion for economics in her son were still around to do the same for her.
“Overall, the support of the program and the professors have been awesome,” said Sandra. “I learned so much and I don’t want to stop. Having been to several universities, I never had that involvement before and it allowed me to stand side by side with my kids as we accomplished something separately, but together. It’s definitely one of my most memorable moments.”
Similar to her mother, Katherine also majored in marketing at first. And similar to her brother, her eventual pursuit of economics seemed inevitable given an introduction to the field earlier in her educational career. In Katherine’s case, a previous advisor pointed out her natural talent in the subject and opened her eyes to economics’ ability to study human behavior in a more scientific way compared to marketing.
With their matching degrees, the trio have dived right into continuing their education. Joseph is currently working on his economics doctorate at the University of Wyoming and hopes to pursue postdoctoral work back in Alaska at UAA. Additionally, he is co-publishing a paper with Sandra about how retiring energy generators impacts air quality in states that export their energy generation. Katherine just began an internship at UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.