Professor Michele Villinski

Her Campus: Hi Professor Villinski. Being in your Intro to Economics course this semester has really sparked my interest to know more about the interesting things you have done in economics and on DePauw’s campus. Can I ask you some questions?

Michele Villinski: I would love to talk, thanks for asking me.

HC: I would like to start by asking why you originally got into economics.

MV: Well, originally, I was a political science major as an undergrad, but later on when I was working with public policy, I fell in love with economics. I saw its usefulness as a tool for decision-making on a group and national level.

HC: You’ve mentioned before that you have travelled a lot; can you tell me about one of your trips?

MV: Yeah, I have done a Fulbright sabbatical in Surabaya, Indonesia. I was there for six weeks, learning from and teaching with colleagues at a private university.

HC: What was it like teaching there?

MV: It turned out that the students knew less English than I was led to believe…I ended up having to teach a mix of Bahasa Indonesia and English. I was able to get a set of PowerPoints from an Indonesian colleague, and with that, I interspersed English with Indonesian technical terms to help the students. I would draw graphs and label them in Indonesian for clarity.

HC: Despite that challenge, what would you say you learned and observed about the difference between education there versus here?

MV: I learned from the students and other educators about the obstacles they faced in trying to get an education. What hit me the most was how much the professors and students truly valued the opportunity of an education and how hard they were willing to work for the knowledge. They did not take it for granted, and it really made me appreciate what we have here.

HC: Speaking of what we have here, could you tell me a little about your passions on campus here at DePauw?

MV: One of the things I am involved in here is Women in Economics and Business. This group provides a way to foster support and relationships between female students on campus, especially the women interested in business or economics. We have brought many speakers to campus over the years and have provided opportunities to connect with alumni, among other things.

HC: In class, you have mentioned before your passion for environmental economics. Could you could talk a bit about that?

MV: Yes, I am an environmental economist, and I get to teach that subject about every year. I teach students from a wide range of majors, and I love it because it’s fun and we look at many different perspectives and issues. For example, we can study corporate social responsibility and how business objectives can be met while practicing sustainability.

HC: Is this course hard to teach? What do you like the most about teaching this?

MV: This course is hard to teach just because there are so many things to put in there and no real guide about what has to be covered like there would be for an intro economics class. The way I teach is always evolving, and the boundaries are expanding. Aside from my love for teaching students, after 19 years of teaching I still enjoy it because I get to keep learning—I always am learning more about economics, I always am learning from students, and I am always evolving and changing my classes.

HC: I really appreciate your passion and enjoyed talking to you today. Thank you!