Although globally humans rely mostly on agriculture as a source of sustenance, farmers around the world are not on equal footing. Eren Shultz ’15 is particularly aware of this disparity “having both grown up in rural Wisconsin and spent significant amounts of time traveling and living abroad in small agrarian villages in Eastern Africa, namely in Tanzania and Uganda.” Shultz said he was both “fascinated and concerned” with “the differences in mechanization and lifestyles” between those communities.
Shultz, an economics and environmental studies double major, recently began work at Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equity Fund (TIAA-CREF) as a financial analyst on the Global Agriculture Investment team in Charlotte, N.C. TIAA-CREF “is a Fortune 100 financial services organization that is the leading retirement provider for people who work in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.”
Although Shultz’s interest in agriculture was cultivated at an early age, it wasn’t until studying different models of agricultural development in East Africa that the economic component of such development became his primary focus. “While I discovered and researched many promising models, the capital needed to promote many of them was absent, which is what drove me to pursue the financial side of agricultural development, complementing my interests in the social and scientific aspects of the field,” he stated.
Describing his interest, Shultz said, “Agricultural development is a fascinating topic to me because it is related… to every industry and individual, and it is both delightfully complex and beautifully simple in its significance. The agricultural sector,” he continued, “is integral to the development gap between the ‘developed’ and the ‘’developing’ world.” Shultz explained this connection by referencing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: “If the basic and essential needs of humans (food, water and shelter) are not met, economies and societies cannot develop or progress.”
This field is especially important, Shultz noted, because “as the world’s population continues to grow, the demand for land, food and water rises congruently, [thus] investing in agriculture and agricultural development is very promising.” He explained that TIAA-CREF’s “investment strategy and philosophy makes it a leader in ‘socially responsible investing’ because they understand the multidimensionality of the asset and work to promote and practice investment and management strategies that not only optimize financial returns, but also social returns.”
Shultz was connected with TIAA-CREF through Homestead Capital, “a private equity firm based in San Francisco that invests, for now, exclusively in domestic agriculture projects.” The company’s managing partner Daniel Little ’00, renewed Shultz’ interest in TIAA-CREF, “prompting [him] to follow up on an earlier chain of emails with Ron Pressman ’80, the COO of TIAA-CREF, to talk about the company's approach to investing in agriculture and his career path.”
Majors: Economics and Environmental Studies
Hometown: Prairie Du Sac, Wis.
High School: Sauk Prairie High School
Hamilton’s Fallcoming weekend offered Shultz the opportunity to meet with Pressman in person, where he encouraged Shultz to apply to the organization’s three-year rotational analyst program. However because of Shultz’s background in agriculture and real assets, the company made an exception and hired him to work exclusively on the agriculture team, and not rotate, like most analysts do, to other departments.
In describing his work at TIAA-CREF, Shultz said, “I’ll be helping to complete due diligence on properties the company is interested in adding to its portfolio, [as well as] conducting market research and some financial modeling.
Shultz already has a solid foundation for his work. Besides his experience at Homestead Capital, he also completed a GIS Economics course, taught by Professor of Economics and Director of the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center Julio Videras that “explored the social and economic effects of different models of agriculture on U.S. populations using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software and its accompanying statistical tools.
Shultz later continued this work with a Levitt Center summer research project, under Professor of Economics Erol Balkan, “searching for a potential replicable, scalable and sustainable cooperative model that could reduce international poverty rates by acting as catalysts for economic development.”
Eventually Shultz would like to “lead a private equity fund that invests in agricultural projects in the developing world, specifically Africa, which contains over 60% of the world's remaining arable land; however, most U.S. based funds are not comfortable investing in agricultural projects in Africa due to issues with property rights, lack of expertise in that region and the related higher risk profile of agriculture investments in Sub-Saharan African countries,” he remarked.
Shultz appreciates the connections he made through Hamilton, as well as the liberal arts curriculum that “gives students the opportunity to experience and appreciate the complexity and multidimensionality of the world, of problems they seek to address, of businesses they seek to start and of issues they seek to take-up, before they even graduate.” He added that the Levitt Center’s Social Innovation program and Research Fellows program helped him hone his skills and refine his interests.