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Matt Pflum
It almost feels like a one-place-fits-all university.

Profile: Matt Pflum

Economic Analyst, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

“Economics is like a jigsaw puzzle,” says agricultural and consumer economics graduate Matt Pflum. “In order to see the bigger picture,” he says, “you have to understand how many of the smaller pieces fit together. Some pieces are large and an obvious fit, while others may be more subtle and confusing. The ability to discern which pieces will have the largest impact and be the most helpful to solving specific problems is a very important quality.”

Matt Pflum, an economic analyst for Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, helps solve the rising problem of pollution caused by pharmaceutical medicines and personal care products. His work is with a program that helps communities dispose of unwanted medicines safely rather than throwing them in the garbage or flushing them down the toilet.

“I am working to analyze the multitude of beneficial impacts this program provides, not only to the local economy and consumers, but also to the environment and aquatic life affected by pharmaceutical pollution,” Matt says. “Understanding who and what is affected by the reduced pollution will allow us to estimate an economic valuation for the monetary worth of such environmental programs.”

Working in environmental economics is particularly rewarding for Matt because the job integrates his logical, analytical mentality and his passion for the outdoors and natural resources.

“The consideration that goes into the numerous questions that arise from finding a balance between economic development and environmental preservation” is enjoyable to Matt. “Working in economics is so intriguing because it requires expansive and creative thinking to find answers to practical questions.”

Matt doesn’t think critically and crunch numbers 24/7, though; during college, intramural sports and social fraternity functions were some of his most enjoyable extracurriculars. These activities allowed him to build lasting friendships with a diverse group of people from all walks of life. Opportunities like these together with the top preparedness for his career convinced Matt that the U of I is one of a kind.

“It almost feels like a one-place-fits-all university,” Matt says. “It is definitely unique that such a highly regarded academic institution has so much to offer students of all academic interests, cultures, and backgrounds. It’s impressive that both the big-city business student and the small-town agriculture student can graduate with a top-tier education, prepared to succeed in their respective industries.”