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UW Vanvig Graduate Fellows Recognized for Excellence in Ag, Applied Economics

June 22, 2022

Two graduate students in the University of Wyoming’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics received the prestigious Andrew and Connie Vanvig Graduate Fellowship for their outstanding performance in the classroom and the university community.

The 2022 fellows are Hana Fancher, originally from Denver, Colo., and Meghan Smith, of Meeker, Colo. The Vanvig Fellowship is the premier award for graduate students in UW’s agricultural and applied economics department, says Ben Rashford, department head.

Established by former Department Head Andy Vanvig and his wife, Connie, the annual fellowship includes a significant financial award and recognizes students who excel both as researchers and university citizens. The graduate committee, with input from faculty, typically selects one Vanvig Fellow each year.

“Every year, it is a difficult decision because we have so many exceptional and hard-working graduate students,” Rashford says. “This year was as difficult as ever, and the committee decided to award two Vanvig Fellowships.”

Strong endowment returns allowed the committee to award both Fancher and Smith with $3,000 fellowships to support their studies and professional development.

Both students are engaged in economic research projects relevant to farming and ranching communities in Wyoming.

Fancher’s research focuses on the socioeconomic determinants of community security in the U.S. beef industry. The goal is to better understand regional-level trends and develop a realistic profile of the communities that support the beef industry.

Working with an interdisciplinary team, she is analyzing the dynamics of herd inventory, net farm income, farm expenses and farm labor over the past 40 years. Fancher is collaborating with John Ritten, a UW professor of agricultural and applied economics, as well as J.D. Wulfhorst, a rural sociologist from the University of Idaho.

Raised on her family’s cattle ranch in Colorado, Smith previously received the inaugural Earl and Minnie Lynch Graduate Assistantship in UW’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

For her thesis, she is working with Chian Jones Ritten, an associate professor of agricultural and applied economics, to investigate how gender differences in wage negotiation behavior affect the gender wage gap. Ultimately, her research is intended to aid policymakers in developing equitable wage determination in labor markets.

To learn more about graduate studies in UW’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, call Rashford at (307) 766-6474 or email

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