Leah Greden Mathews, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair of Economics

Contact Information

  • lmathews@unca.edu
  • 251-6551
  • 147 Karpen Hall

Dr. Mathews believes in the power of economic literacy to change lives and minds. She centers lived experience in her courses and embraces the power of storytelling and narrative as an essential complement to quantitative approaches that predominate in economics. Dr. Mathews routinely uses deep listening of popular music in her classroom as a method for engaging students in discussion of challenging topics and to humanize economic issues. Her work in the classroom has been recognized with several awards including the University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Kenneth G. Elzinga Distinguished Teaching Award from the Southern Economic Association.

As an applied environmental economist, Dr. Mathews' research focuses on estimating the value of those things you can't buy on grocery store shelves like water quality, scenic quality, cultural heritage, and social interactions. This work has led to over $1 million in research grants that have engaged over 40 UNC Asheville students. As an interdisciplinary, systems-thinking teacher-scholar, Dr. Mathews is perennially engaged with students and colleagues from multiple disciplines in order to enrich her intellectual life, improve her understanding of the world, and gain new perspective.


  • Ph.D. in Agricultural and Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota
  • B.A. in Economics, French, and International Affairs from Marquette University

Courses Taught

  • ECON 103 Introductory Economic Analysis
  • ECON 178   Springsteen-omics: Economics Through the Songs of Bruce Springsteen
  • ECON 274 ST: The Myth of the American Dream: Race, Class and Economic Immobility
  • ECON 242 Economics of Food
  • ECON 245 Land Economics
  • Arts 310 The Myth of the American Dream in Song: Race, Class, and Economic Immobility
  • ECON 102 Principles of Microeconomics
  • ECON 345 Natural Resource Economics
  • ECON 373 Economics of Waste
  • ECON 450 Seminar in Economics

Professional Interests

Dr. Mathews' research focuses on the valuation of those things that you can't buy on supermarket shelves, like environmental quality and cultural heritage, and the links between economics and policy. Her dissertation focused on the value of water quality improvements in the Minnesota River and since coming to Western North Carolina, she has studied many of the values that residents and visitors have for this amenity-rich region. These include an estimate of the value that recreators place on maintaining higher water levels in Fontana Lake and the value of scenic quality along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Her latest research flows across disciplinary boundaries in order to better understand how preference formation and the values that people hold for intangibles are embedded in space and place.

Dr. Mathews has also significant experience with issues related to food and farmland. The Farmland Values Project gathered information about the values that communities in Western North Carolina have for farmland, with particular attention to those that aren't typically exchanged in markets, including scenic beauty and cultural heritage. The Talk at Tailgate Markets examined how the interactions that people have at farmers markets influence their purchases. Keeping the Value with the Farm:  Expanding Market Opportunities Through Regional Branding is surveying individuals to measure their perceptions around local food and Appalachian Grown branding. These results have been used to develop local food messaging and branding strategies to better understand local food purchasing. Dr. Mathews was a founding member of the Food for Thought cluster at UNC Asheville, a multidisciplinary faculty group teaching courses across campus that focus on developing students as an informed consumer of food by providing a platform for discussion of what we eat, why we eat, where our food comes from and its journey from production to consumption, and how food affects our bodies and health. 

The scholarship of teaching and learning is another passion of Dr. Mathews. Her collaboration with several faculty to improve and assess student learning in the Food for Thought cluster led to the 2013 William E. Bennett Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Citizen Science for their work integrating STEM and non-STEM courses. In addition to ongoing assessment of her own courses, she is also currently engaged in a project assessing the effectiveness of senior capstone projects in Economics.


  • Mahoney, M., L. G. Mathews, and A. Thomas, “Springsteen-omics: Contemplative Pedagogy and Springsteen in Undergraduate Economics Courses,” Journal of Economic Education, January 2022.
  • Mathews, L.G., Teaching Natural Resource Economics Using Policy Briefs: Ethics in Pedagogy and Practice, in Teaching Environmental and Natural Resource Economics: Paradigms and Pedagogy, J. Bergstrom & J. Whitehead, eds. Edward Elgar Publishers, January 2022.
  • Lanou, A.J., L. G. Mathews, J. Speer, L. Mills, and N. Gold-Leighton, “The Effects of Experiential Food Education on Local Food Purchasing and Eating Behavior,” Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 2021.
  • Mathews, L. G., L. Hamilton, E. Diaz-Loar, C. Whitlock, B. Eichenlaub, and T. Vicenty, “The Contributions of Undergraduate Research Experiences to Skill and Career Development: A Multi-Institutional Analysis,” NACTA Journal, 63(2), 2019.
  • Mathews, Leah Greden, “Farm and Food Tourism as a Strategy for Sustainable, Place-Based Tourism: The Case of Western North Carolina.” Linking Urban and Rural Tourism, S.L. Slocum and C. Kline, eds., CABI (Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International), Oxfordshire, U.K., publishers, 2017.
  • Clayton, Russell, C. Thomas, Michael Stratton, Bryan Schaeffer, Ellen Garrison, and Leah Greden Mathews, “Exercise and Work-Family Conflict: A Field Experiment”. Journal of Managerial Psychology 32(3): 225-238. 2017.
  • Hamilton, Lynn, Richard Grant, Marilyn McGrarry Wolf, and Leah Greden Mathews,“The Value of Undergraduate Research: A Pilot Study of Agribusiness Alumni Perceptions.” National Association of College Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Journal, 60(2), June 2016.
  • Wasileski, Sally, Karin Peterson, Leah Greden Mathews, Amy Lanou, David Clarke, Ellen Bailey and Jason Wingert, “Why we should not ‘go it alone’:Strategies for realizing integrative learning in SENCER curricula.” Science Education and Civic Engagement. Winter 2016, 8(1): 55-65.
  • Carson, Rachel, Kelly Giarrocco, Zoe Hamel, Matthew Waissen, Leah Greden Mathews, Sara Russell, Eric Gerber, and Rebecca Baylor, “Buying In: The Influence of Interactions at Farmers Markets.” Agriculture and Human Values, pp. 1-15, December 2015, DOI 10.1007/s10460-015-9675-y.
  • Leah Greden Mathews and Art Rex with Anne Lancaster, "Using Participatory GIS to Improve Community Land Use Decisions: A Demonstration Using TVAL-Farm," Inventive Approaches for Technology Integration and Information Resources Management (Mehdi Kosrow-Pour, ed.), 2014.
  • Melissa Burchard, Amy Lanou, Leah Greden Mathews, Karin Peterson and Alice Weldon, "Co-writing, Co-knowing: Transforming Epistemologies," Theoretical Practice, 2014.
  • Jason Wingert, Sally Wasileski, Karin Peterson, Leah Greden Mathews, Amy Joy Lanou, and David Clarke, "The Impact of Integrated Student Experiences on Learning," Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 14(1):42-58, February 2014.
  • Rex, Art, Leah Greden Mathews, and Anne Lancaster.  “TVAL-Farm: A Qualitative Enhancement of the LESA Model.”  International Journal of Geospatial Research, 3(8), July-September 2012.
  • Mathews, Leah Greden, "From the Ground Up: Assessing Consumer Preferences for Multifunctional Agriculture." Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 2(2), winter 2011/spring 2012.
  • Wingert, Jason, Sally Wasileski, Karin Peterson, Leah Greden Mathews, Amy Lanou, and David Clarke. "Enhancing Integrative Experiences: Evidence of Student Perceptions of Learning Gains from Cross-Course Interactions." Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 11(3), August 2011.
  • Mathews, Leah Greden and Art Rex.  “Incorporating Scenic Quality and Cultural Heritage into Farmland Valuation: Results from an Enhanced LESA Model.” Journal of Conservation Planning 7, 2011.
  • Mathews, Leah Greden, “The Economics of Cultural Heritage,” 21st Century Economics: A Reference Handbook. SAGE Publishers, 2010.
  • Mathews, Leah Greden and Andrew Jones, “Using Systems Thinking to Improve Interdisciplinary Learning Outcomes: Reflections on a Pilot Study in Land Economics". Issues in Integrative Studies 26, 2008.
  • Mathews, Leah Greden, Anne Lancaster, Art Rex, Daniel O'Leary, and Anna Callahan, "Practicing What We Preach: Using Community-Based Research Methods to Facilitate Multidirectional and Multilayered Information Exchange Along the Urban-Rural Fringe", in Proceedings of Emerging Issues Along Urban-Rural Interfaces II: Linking Land Use Science and Society, pp.32-35. David N. Laband, editor. September 2007.
  • Fuller, Kate, Mahri Monson, Jennifer Ward, and Leah Greden Mathews, “Can Nature Drive Economic Growth?” Review of Agricultural Economics, 27(4), Fall/Winter 2005.
  • Mathews, Leah Greden, Susan Kask, Laura Rotegard, Gary Johnson & Steven Stewart, “How Much do Visitors Value Scenic Quality? Results from The Blue Ridge Parkway Scenic Experience Project,” in Proceedings of the 12th Conference on Research and Resource Management in Parks and on Public lands, The 2003 George Wright Society Conference, David Harmon, editor. Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society, December 2003.
  • Mathews, Leah Greden, Frances R. Homans, and K. William Easter, “Estimating the Benefits of Phosphorus Pollution Reductions: An Application in the Minnesota River,” Journal of American Water Resources Association, 38(5): 1217-1223, October 2002.
  • Mathews, Leah Greden, “Junk Car Clash on the Rural-Urban Fringe: A Case Study in Local Government Decision Making,” Review of Agricultural Economics, 42(2): 528-539, Fall/Winter 2002.
  • Mathews, Leah Greden, “Service Learning in Land Economics: Economic Literacy in Action”, in Putting the Invisible Hand to Work: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Economics, KimMarie McGoldrick and Andrea L. Ziegert, editors. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002.
  • Mathews, Leah Greden, Susan Kask, Laura Rotegard, and Steven Stewart, “Using Economics to Inform National Park Management Decisions: A Case Study on the Blue Ridge Parkway,” in Crossing Boundaries in Park Management: Proceedings of the 11th Conference on Research and Resource Management in Parks and on Public Lands, The 2001George Wright Society Conference, David Harmon, editor. Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society, 2001.