Westfield State University senior Anthony Rascati remembers watching a news story a couple years ago on CNN about the rise of hydraulic fracturing in the U.S. Figuring it was a hot and controversial topic, Rascati did some initial research on his own and found that in 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey discovered potential oil reserves underneath Westfield.
From there he decided to research and write his senior honors thesis on the subject of “fracking,” a type of drilling that uses pressurized liquid to extract oil or gas. The project came under the direction of Economics and Business Management Professor Hillary Sackett, Ph.D., in the fall of 2014.
His research included conducting a survey of all faculty and staff at Westfield State on their opinions about hydraulic fracturing. His ultimate goal is to present to the Westfield City Council his findings that the majority of those surveyed do not support fracking, and to recommend the council pass an ordinance to ban any future attempts at the practice.
“I put two and two together that this was an interesting and relevant topic to study because it could have
a direct impact on the Westfield community,” said Rascati, 21, who is majoring in Criminal Justice and Economics. “I didn’t want to just write a large research paper, turn it in and walk away. I wanted it to have a lasting impact.”
Sackett believes that extra effort makes Rascati a standout student, and one who is a perfect candidate to take advantage of research opportunities for Westfield State undergraduates.
“Anthony sees something out in the real world and thinks how he can apply what he knows to solve this
and turn it into an action,” Sackett said. “He’s thinking long term and outside of himself and the goals of this single thesis project.”
His research was presented in April at the Northeast Regional Honors Conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He is also waiting to hear if his abstract on the topic will be accepted for presentation at the Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association meeting in June in Newport, R.I.
As an undergraduate, Rascati is grateful that Westfield State provides such research opportunities, noting there’s a “common misconception that large research projects only take place in graduate school.”
For Sackett, engaging undergraduates in research should be a part of their experience.
“It’s all about being able to have students come up with the question they want answered and train in methodology of the disciplines and be able to present and communicate this to a wide variety of people,” she said. “That is so core to Westfield’s mission of a quality education.”
Hillary Sackett, Ph.D.
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, ECONOMICS AND MANAGEMENT
Westfield State University professor of economics, Hillary Sackett, Ph.D., has many interests in her writing and research, including ecology, food and farming systems.
After earning her doctoral degree in the Department of Agriculture, Food, and Resource Economics with a concentration in environmental and natural resource at Michigan State University, Sackett has conducted research and teaches on environmental and experimental economics.
Sackett has given talks on sustainable farming and the future of sustainable food labels. Based on recent travels, Sackett also lectures and writes about the sustainability changes facing China. In spring 2015, she will offer a study abroad course in China.
She is an advocate of undergraduate research opportunities at Westfield State University.
“I would urge students looking at public institutions in Massachusetts to consider Westfield because we are so dedicated to the teaching mission that undergraduate research is a really natural component of that,” she said.
Anthony Rascati ’15
ECONOMICS AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
Anthony Rascati likes the cozy setting of Westfield State where students aren’t treated like a number.
“I feel I can approach any professor at any time with questions. My professors all know me by first name,” said the Criminal Justice and Economics major.
“At Westfield, I don’t feel overwhelmed like you might at a larger school.”
Besides taking classes and working on research projects, Rascati interned at the Westfield City Hall Law Department in the spring of 2014. His responsibilities included conducting research and summarizing general laws for the city’s attorneys.
That experience, coupled with his research projects in economics, has laid the foundation for him to attend law school after graduation. Currently, he is considering several law schools, including Michigan State University and Villanova University.