Chico Economics Graduate Careers - Government

Orrin BantaOrrin Banta

Orrin Banta received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from California State University, Chico in 1994. After graduating, Orrin conducted economic, demographic, and public opinion research and analysis independently and as an employee of a local research and consulting firm, spent several years with the Superior Court of California, County of Butte in various administrative capacities, including coordinating Butte County’s drug court programs, and is now employed as an Events Coordinator for Strategies (, a nonprofit training and technical assistance program that provides guidance to social service organizations in an effort to reduce child abuse. Orrin’s primary role is to coordinate the logistical aspects of training events and other projects, and to provide administrative support to Strategies teammates. He has been instrumental in the development of numerous training programs including Family Economic Success and the Sustainability Project.

Orrin confirms, “A degree in economics will benefit you regardless of the path you choose to take through life. Perhaps the greatest benefit is the way a study of economics expands and develops thinking processes. The ideas, methods, and tools about which you’ll learn will become invaluable to you whether you’re managing a household or a multi-national corporation. From an understanding of the elements affecting supply and demand and marginal rates of return, to monetary policy, and more complex statistical analysis, an education in economics will serve you well. Economics allows us to evaluate in a fuller light the claims made by advertisers, government officials, and political candidates, as well as our own behavior and the behavior of family members, coworkers, customers, and others. Either at work or in my personal life, I use the education I received through Chico State’s Department of Economics on a daily basis.”

Greta Bernard MacdonaldGreta Bernard Macdonald

Greta Bernard graduated in 1999. She is an experienced management consultant and audit professional with a wide range of experience working with a variety of clients in the public and non-profit sectors, including healthcare and transportation. She has performed dozens of operational, performance, and compliance audits of public agencies, non-profit organizations, municipal governments and public hospitals and health plans. Greta has developed audit guidelines, designed, administered and analyzed the results of questionnaires, case studies, and structured interviews.

"I do remember loving my public finance course, taught by Bob Fischer, who inspired me to go on to get a master's in public administration. As a government consultant, at a high level, we are constantly advising our clients about how to efficiently and effectively allocate scarce resources, be it funds, staffing or infrastructure. Or sometimes, if it's an internal audit rather than a consulting project, we identify where there are weaknesses in a process, program, or department, which is impacts efficiency or effectiveness. I enjoy connecting with clients and providing them with solutions that focus on improving outcomes."

Dan BlairDan Blair

Dan Blair, who competed his BA in Economics in 2004, is a Senior Government Relations Representative within PG&E’s Corporate Affairs Department. In this role he's responsible for developing and maintaining a strong governmental, political, and community network within PG&E in direct support of the company’s Electric Operations business unit and in collaboration with the existing Government Relations organization.  This includes supporting capital projects with permitting, alignment with local development standards, and community outreach. Prior to joining PG&E in November of 2011, Dan worked for Butte County where he was a Management Analyst, Manager of Program Development, and Senior Management Analyst . As a member of the Administrative Office, he focused on grant writing and management, economic and community development, budget and fiscal analysis, financial and capital planning, public information and outreach, policy writing and implementation, and general government management.

"Without my degree in Economics, I would not have been considered for the opportunity to be a member of the Butte County Administrative Office," Dan stated in a recent email.  "Because this position focused on economic development and financial planning, the County preferred a degree in Economics.  After completing my Master’s Degree in Political Science in 2011, I accepted my current position with PG&E. The combination of Economics and Political Science degrees was a key factor in being selected for this position. My degree in Economics offered a broad understanding of business, finance, market trends, management, and political climate. As opposed to focusing on one narrow subject, Economics gave me the training to analyze and to assess real world situations with a foundational understanding of how and why the business world operates the way it does. My degree opened up several doors for me and I have no doubt that it was the right educational path for me to take."

Jay ChamberlainJay Chamberlain

Jay Chamberlain, who graduated from Chico with a BA in economics in 1983, received his PhD in economics at UC Davis in 1987. After spending a couple years in Washington D.C. working for the federal government and a consulting firm, he moved back to California to take a job with the California Franchise Tax Board. Jay spent 20 years there, developing analytical tax models and managing the Economics and Statistical Research Bureau. He is currently the Chief of the Financial Research Unit at the State of California Department of Finance, a position he's held since the fall of 2010. His main responsibility is to oversee all the major revenue forecasts (Personal Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Sales and Use Tax, and others) that are used for the development of the Governor’s Budget. Besides developing revenue forecasts, his unit is tasked with analyzing tax legislative, as well as regulations and initiatives. Jay also provides technical advice to policy-makers and he testifies at legislative hearings regarding any tax proposals of the Governor. His unit is also responsible for the Finance Bulletin.

In a recent email Jay stated that "The quantitative, analytical, and writing skills that I developed at Chico are very important in my current position. While I did go on to get my PhD at UC Davis, I find that most of the economics questions I have to answer (as opposed to tax-law questions) relate back to things I learned at Chico. In my role in training staff and advising policy makers, most of the issues I deal with come back to basic concepts like opportunity costs, externalities, and standard methods of quantitative analysis. While I enjoyed all my economics coursework at Chico, I am particularly indebted to John Eckalbar, Michael Perelman, and Robert Fischer, both for what I learned in their classes and for their enthusiastic encouragement for me to pursue further education and a career in economics."

Steve CowdinSteve Cowdin

Steve Cowdin, who graduated from Chico with a BA in economics in 1972 and an MPA in 1977, worked as an economist for Department of Water Resources in Sacramento. His areas of expertise include:

Water resource project planning analysis, including plan formulation and evaluation; Consequence analysis, including economic impact analysis, population-at-risk estimation, and life loss estimation; Development of innovative methods for benefit-cost analysis of multi-objective projects; Flood damage reduction analyses using Corps of Engineers and FEMA models and methods; Risk management, risk assessment, and risk communication

I was the CA DWR lead economist for flood risk management studies and contributed economic analyses to several significant Central Valley flood risk reduction studies, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins Comprehensive Study, Hamilton City Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study, and Colusa Basin Integrated Watershed Management Study.

He retired from state service in 2010 but am currently with David Ford Consulting Engineers, Inc. (Sacramento) still doing flood risk management studies for CA DWR and other agencies, including the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan.

Mitchell FergusonMitchell Ferguson

Mitchell Ferguson graduated with a Honor’s in economics in 1992. He took the Foreign Service Officer Test twice, passed it the second time, and started working for the State Department. As an Economic Officer for the U.S. Department of State, Mitchell Ferguson has been assigned to Embassies around the world, tasked with advancing U.S. economic policy with foreign counterparts. Economic diplomacy includes informing U.S. policy makers on host-country economic conditions, as well as presenting U.S. positions to host-country officials. He is the Counselor of Political and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia. Mitch has also served in Colombia, South Africa, Mexico, Washington, Angola, and El Salvador.

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Brian FitzgeraldBrian Fitzgerald

Brian Fitzgerald graduated in 2007 with a B.A. in Economics. He went to work for a private consulting firm in Sacramento specializing in efficiency and compliance auditing for local and state agencies across the country. In 2009, he went to work for the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) in a project management capacity where he leveraged information technology resources and quantitative methods to increase operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Currently, he serves as the Section Chief over the Cost Avoidance Section (CAS) within DHCS, a program that impacts approximately 1.7 Californians each year. Under his direction, the CAS is responsible for cost avoiding roughly $3 billion annually, and ensuring compliance with federal and state statutes.

JohnsonBobbi Jean Johnson

Bobbi Jean Johnson, graduated in May of 2012, and she landed a job as elections analyst for Yuba County in July of 2012. She is involved with the entire election process from planning, data collection and forecasting to processing candidate documents and poll site coordination. In a recent email she said, “I love my job and Chico prepared me well for the job market.”

Crystal D. NashCrystal D. Nash

Crystal D. Nash, who graduated in 2002, joined Peace Corps after graduation.  After leaving Peace Corps she worked in rural economic development in California.  In a recent email Crystal Nash, stated that “The requirements for collaborative writing, computer/technical skills and just basic statistical math that I learned while pursuing my BA in Economics have been invaluable to me.” 

“I made the cross country move to work in Washington, DC around August of 2013 and have been in "full sprint" work mode since then.”  Crystal currently works as a program analyst for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington D.C. “I'm a certified Project manager and my career/interests have evolved to more of an IT based project/program management role.”

“The writing components, communication, critical thinking/analysis and team work/building skills that I learned while in college as an economics undergraduate have helped me tremendously.”  

Marianne O'MalleyMarianne O'Malley

Marianne O'Malley graduated with a BA in economics and a BA in political science in 1982. She went to Harvard where she received her master’s degree in public policy in 1985. Her master’s thesis on the topic of “Cruising for Parking” in central cities was awarded first prize by the American Planning Association. She is the Managing Principal Analyst of the State and Local Finance section of the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO). Ms. O’Malley has broad responsibilities for supervising matters related to state employee compensation, infrastructure spending, and state and local taxation.

Since joining the LAO in 1985, Ms. O’Malley has testified and lectured extensively on the subjects of local government finance, property taxation, sales tax, the initiative process, and state infrastructure investment. She is the principal author of a series of LAO reports examining modern California local finance and a recent report on the dissolution of redevelopment.

Ms. O’Malley has fond memories of Chico State. “Frankly, I wouldn't have gotten where I am without Professor Jon Ebeling's and Professor Michael Perelman's kind and active encouragement,” she stated in a recent email.

Paul Van DykePaul Van Dyke

Paul Van Dyke, who completed his BA in Economics in 1988, later earned a Master’s Degree in Organizational Management from Antioch University, Los Angeles. In 2013 he received a Masters in Social Work from CSU Stanislaus. He is currently a registered Associate Clinical Social Worker.

Between degrees Paul worked on campaigns and legislation for State Senator Hayden, media relations for Assembly member Sweeney, and later was Legislative Director and Chief of Staff for the late State Senator Soto.  in the early ‘90s, he was an account executive for a Santa Monica based environmental public affairs firm, and a statewide coordinator on political campaigns for the Humane Society of the United States in 1996.

In a recent email he wrote that, "I wanted to become more direct service orientated after I had worked in the Legislature for 12 years."  He recently started a new job, a PSC II (case manager) for a new Crisis Residential Center in Sacramento. It is a project of Turning Point Community Programs in conjunction with UC Davis Health System Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

“I still have fond memories of the Economics program at Chico state, it really was a great program, and it still is. The variance in my career well states the diversity, integrity, and value of the BA in Econ from Chico. Professors like Frederica Shockley, Michael Perelman, David Gallo really taught me how to think about big problems. The analytic skills I learned there drew me to public policy, and later social work.”