As Director of the National Center for Environmental Economics and chief economist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Al McGartland (ECON Ph.D. ‘84) knows the important role graduates from the Department of Economics can play in the future of the planet’s health.

“Every environmental problem is a result of human behavior,” McGartland said. “The idea that you would attack a problem caused by human behavior without behavioral scientists would be very unwise.”

In his position at the EPA, McGartland advises senior leadership on regulatory analyses, science and environmental policy, while leading assessments on the benefits and cost-effectiveness of various environmental programs.

However, when McGartland first arrived at the University of Maryland, he had no intentions of working in environmental policy. A native of Pittsburgh, he graduated from Duquesne University with an accounting degree and decided to study economics at UMD in order to follow in the footsteps of one of his favorite undergraduate professors. McGartland said plans for his future began to take shape after the arrival of a new professor in the UMD Economics Department named Dr. Wallace Oates. Oates—a distinguished University professor who died in October of 2015—was considered a pioneer in the field of environmental economics. Oates inspired McGartland to apply his interest in economics to helping the environment after just one course.

“I never looked back after that,” McGartland said. “The idea of being in this whole new area was very appealing.”

McGartland considers his time at the University of Maryland his transformative years where he grew in confidence, made life-long friends and met his future wife with whom he’s been married for 35 years. Yet he wants the Class of 2016 to know that although they’ve worked extremely hard to get to graduation, their hard work is far from over.  

“Economics is changing dramatically and the problems economists are tackling are becoming more important,” McGartland said. “I think (today’s graduates) are in a unique position to make an even bigger contribution than any of their predecessors.” 

Dr. Al McGartland, Director of the National Center for Environmental Economics