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State tabs former USM professor as senior economist

A two-year search for a senior state economist has ended with the selection of Clarksdale native Dr. Sondra Collins, who joined the Mississippi University Research Center after four years as an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Clarksdale native Dr. Sondra Collins has begun work as a senior economist with the state’s University Research Center.

Clarksdale native Dr. Sondra Collins has begun work as a senior economist with the state’s University Research Center.

Collins replaces Dr. Marianne Hill, who retired in the summer of 2013 after more than 20 years with the University Research Center.

Collins is an economist with research interests in health economics, public policy, poverty and income inequality. She will continue to pursue those topics with the University Research Center as she focuses on the systematic challenges facing Mississippi, the URC said.

“I was always interested in the research aspects” of poverty and poverty-related issues,” said Collins, who received her undergraduate degree from Winston Salem State University and doctorate in economics from the University of Alabama.

Collins will examine the economic aspects of long-term issues facing Mississippi, including the impact of unwed motherhood, obesity, education, the aging population, among other issues.

The plan, Collins said, is to carve out research areas for herself that involve the state’s longstanding challenges.

“They have kind of given me free rein,” she said of her research areas.

Her role will also include soliciting research from Mississippi’s eight public universities, some of which will be published in The Review, a URC publication that will debut in June. The public was formerly the Outlook and Review and was edited by Hill, Collins’ predecessor.

Hill’s previous research has been published in such publications as the Review of Black Political Economy and the Journal of Income Distribution.

Dr. Darrin Webb, state economist, said the University Research Center searched nationally for a new senior economist and “found her right here in Mississippi.”

Collins, Webb said, “holds a keen understanding of Mississippi’s challenges and that, couple with her passion for the state, make her idea to serve as senior economist.”






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