Undergraduate's work helps professor's research reach broader audience

Ethan Retcher and Dr. Anne Farrell

As a Farmer School of Business student majoring in finance with a double minor in accountancy and rhetoric, Ethan Retcher could be excused if he didn’t want to add one more thing to his plate in the last semesters of his college career.

But after traveling with Dr. Anne Farrell during a winter-term study abroad program in his junior year, Retcher said he became very interested in her research work. “After our conversations, I reached out to her and said, ‘Hey, this is really interesting. If there's anything that I can help with over the next three semesters while I'm at Miami, I'd love to be a part of it,’” he recalled.

As it turned out, Farrell did have a role for him. “One of the big things that we've been trying to do here in the department is to translate our extremely dense and hard to read academic writing into a practitioner-friendly format,” she explained.

Farrell, Retcher, and a colleague at Ithaca College worked together on the paper, based on Farrell’s co-authored 2017 study about the quality of workers in online labor markets. “But it was really Ethan that did the outline once we agreed on it, did the background research to decide what practitioners that this journal would be interesting to. He researched the journal to make sure it would fit with the publication, addressed some comments of the reviewers at the journal along the way, to beef it up, to make it even more practitioner-friendly,” she recalled. “So he was really the driver of the whole article. It was fantastic.”

The culmination of their work was an article, “The Upsides and Downsides of Online Labour,” being published in Financial Management magazine earlier this month.

Now working as an investment banking analyst at Lincoln International in Chicago, Retcher said he regards his time working on the project to be an additional benefit to his time at Miami. “A lot of times when you think of college, you hear ‘in the classroom learning and out of the classroom learning,' but I think I was able to add even a third and fourth layer to that through this, where I was able to do in-class learning, out of class learning, study abroad learning, and then research-driven learning,” he said. “I thought it was really a unique way to work on transitioning from taking in knowledge and showing that I know what I was told to taking frameworks and really applying that to open-ended problems and figuring out ‘This is what people need to know, this is how I can tell them this information.’”

“I think it's good for the students because they have to dig through a dense research paper and figure out what about it is important to them in their jobs and their careers,” Farrell noted. “To really, literally translate from the academic writing to a practitioner-friendly version is good writing and good critical thinking.”

The Farmer School’s emphasis on undergraduate education is an advantage for students like Retcher, as participation in research at many schools is often only offered to graduate students. “I thought it was really a good way to cap off my undergrad education, to show that there was a way to help evolve my thinking process and my ability to explain concepts,” Retcher said.