James Atkinson
Data Network Specialist 1

Lisa Christopher
Office Administrator, Senior

Alicia Copley
Research Associate
Alicia Copley began working at the Center for Business and Economic Research at Marshall University in 2008 as an Undergraduate Research Assistant while completing a B.B.A. in Economics and Finance. She attended Ohio State University earning a M.S. in Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics. After completing her graduate work and teaching microeconomics at Ohio University for a year, Ms. Copley returned to CBER as a Research Associate. She has collaborated on projects involving a wide range of energy topics: imports, exports and usage of energy sources in West Virginia; natural gas opportunities in manufacturing, transportation and electricity generation; and coal production, capacity and forecasting. Ms. Copley has assisted in completing reports for clientele including the West Virginia Division of Energy, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and Vision Shared.

Qing Liu
Director of Transportation Economics
Dr. Qing Liu is the Director of Transportation Economics at The Nick J. Rahall, II Appalachian Transportation Institute (RTI), and the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) at Marshall University. With a Bachelor degree in Maritime Transportation and a Ph.D. degree in Transportation and Logistics and a Certificate of Statistics from North Dakota State University, she has broad research experience and interests including multimodal transportation modeling, freight flow analysis, supply chain management, port operation and waterway shipping, public transportation, and economic impact analysis of transportation investment. With multiple years of experience on mathematical programming and regression modeling, Dr. Liu is adept at solving transportation problems and making logistics decisions using economic analysis and modeling. She serves as the committee member and Communication Coordinator of ADD10: Transportation and Economics Development, a standing committee of Transportation Research Board. She believes that “good research is to solve real world problems and to find the best answer to the right question!”

Judy Olson
Grants Resource Associate

Elizabeth Pardue
Demographic Research Specialist
Elizabeth Pardue is a Demographic Research Specialist for the Center for Business and Economic Research at Marshall University. Since beginning as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in 2007, Ms. Pardue has collaborated on a wide variety of project material, including data collection and analysis, review of state legislation and policy, needs assessments and economic impact estimation. She has assisted in completing reports for clientele including Affiliated Construction Trades, the West Virginia Division of Energy and the West Virginia Legislature. Ms. Pardue holds a B.B.A in Economics and an M.B.A., both from Marshall University, and a Certificate in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from Drexel University.

Eric Pennington
Research Assistant
Eric Pennington is a Research Assistant for the Center for Business and Economic Research and a Research Assistant in the Transportation Economics program at RTI. Since joining RTI/CBER he has worked on multiple projects, notably on the Next Generation Vessel, the State Rail Plan, the Economic Impact of the I-73/74 Corridor project and the ongoing compilation of county Land Use Master Plans. Eric graduated from West Virginia University in 2011 with a Master's in Economics, specializing in public economics and development. He worked as a Research and Teaching Assistant, and was a Research Assistant for the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at WVU. Prior to this, Mr. Pennington worked as an intern in the Program Analysis section at Columbia Natural Gas Transmission and Storage.

Christine Risch
Director of Resource and Energy Economics

Christine Risch is the Director of Resource and Energy Economics for the Center for Business and Economic Research at Marshall University. Her work for the Center focuses on regional industry and market analysis, and energy and environmental policy analysis, including economic impact analysis. Specific industries of focus are natural gas, coal, electricity, energy efficiency and renewable energy. Christine is a member of the Special Reclamation Advisory Council of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, where she represents the Actuary/Economist position on the Council.

Christine designed the West Virginia Stock Index, which tracks the top 25 publicly traded firms that do business in West Virginia. Prior to joining CBER she worked as a contractor for the Department of Energy in Washington, DC, in Maryland and ICF, Inc. in Virginia. Christine holds a master's degree in Energy Economics from the Pennsylvania State University and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Marshall University.

Jennifer M. Shand, PhD
Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research
Jennifer Shand is the Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Marshall University. Her areas of expertise include regional economics, economic development, labor economics and consumer finance and demographics. Prior to joining CBER, Dr. Shand worked at Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development, where she worked across university departments and with regional and industry partners to address a variety of issues throughout the State. Her background includes working with local communities, non-profits and industry on applied research projects at the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Shand’s projects include building custom forecasting and analytical tools, industry and market analyses and working with consortia of regional and industry stakeholders. Dr. Shand received her Ph.D. in Economics from the Ohio State University in 2008, with specializations in International Economics and Regional Development. Her personal research focuses on the implications of personal debt for various household decisions such as home ownership and starting a family. She received a master’s degree in Economics from Miami University of Ohio in 2003 and her bachelor’s degree in Economics and International Affairs from James Madison University in 2002.

Kent Sowards
Associate Director

Kent Sowards currently serves as the Associate Director of Marshall University’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) and as the Research Coordinator of the Nick J. Rahall, II Appalachian Transportation Institute (RTI). Mr. Sowards has held various positions during his 15 years at CBER including the Director of Data and Survey Services and Research Associate. At CBER he has focused on education and taxation issues, providing research, legislative testimony and policy analysis. Mr. Sowards received his bachelor’s degree in Management from Marietta College and his M.B.A. from Marshall University. He is currently completing his Ph.D. in Political Science at Kent State University.

At RTI, Mr. Sowards is tasked with locating funding opportunities; prioritizing and oversight of RTI research projects; and contribution to the overall strategic direction of the Institute. Prior to accepting his current position, Mr. Sowards held the titles of Data and Survey Specialist and then Senior Policy Analyst for RTI.

He serves on the Association for University Business and Economic Research (AUBER) Board of Directors, the Transportation Research Board’s Inland Water Transportation (AW020) Committee and has served as a member of (West Virginia) Governor Joe Manchin’s Tax Modernization Project as well as the Vision Shared Rural Broadband Economic Development Steering Committee. Mr. Sowards also serves as the Chair of the Research Subcommittee and on the Director’s Advisory Council for the Multimodal Transportation Infrastructure Consortium (MTIC), a collaborative University Transportation Center funded through the US Department of Transportation.