My name is Todd Easton and I am an Associate Professor of Economics at the Pamplin School of Business. When I started college, I wanted to be a math major. I took two semesters of calculus and then linear algebra. I really enjoyed all of it, but I decided I wasn’t good enough at math to major.
My first semester, I also took economics and biology. Both economics and biology grabbed me; they studied how the world worked! I kept taking those courses for the next couple semesters. Choosing a major towards the end of sophomore year was tough! In the end, I picked economics. The things it studied, like unemployment and income determination, seemed central to the wellbeing of ordinary people.
I earned my B.A. from the University of California at Santa Cruz, my M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. My research is in labor economics, with a special interest in the situation of low-wage workers in the United States. My recent research and book reviews have been published in Industrial Relations, Regional Studies, Education Economics, The Review of Black Political Economy, and The Review of Regional Studies.
To be successful you have to remember, the first thing is interest. People do the best in majors that engage them. You’re in college to make your brain stronger. Harness your curiosity to the study of a subject that grabs you. That’s the best way to develop your thinking and learning skills—it’s also the best way to have a good time.
The second thing is skills and knowledge. Successful economists like math and abstract models, but they also want to study societies. They are social scientists who like to analyze numerical data. Develop your math and statistics chops. Get other perspectives on the study of society—take history, political science, and sociology classes.
When I am not talking about economics, I can be found in my garden. I love to garden and play tennis outside. I enjoy riding my bike on Mt. Tabor. I adore hiking with family or friends, especially to see flowers. I like conversing and keeping up with my Spanish. I love reading economics blogs. My favorite is Economist’s View, by Mark Thoma at U. of Oregon. Give it a try!
The advice I give my students is to prepare for each meeting of each class you take. Ideally, do all the assigned reading the night before and come to class with questions prepared. If that’s not possible, though, spend at least 10 minutes skimming the reading and thinking about how it’s connected to what came before. Even a short stint studying will increase your ability to understand what your prof teaches.
Also, to learn new material, you need to build bridges from it to what you already know. Start building those bridges before class.
Use your elective courses to take classes from professors you find fascinating. Don’t worry about what they are teaching. You’ll learn the most from profs who you connect with.
Even though I was an economics major, some of the courses I remember the best were far afield from economics.
Go to office hours. It’s an efficient way to learn course material. It’s a great way to let your professor know you care. And, there is no extra charge!