1:27 p.m., Nov. 17, 2010----Economic trends and matters of finance are critical to everyone. Yet, many people have very little understanding of these important concepts and how they apply to their lives. The need for financial literacy and an understanding of core economic issues is growing and so is the demand for professionals and scholars who can educate the community and influence school curricula about core economic issues.
Students who graduate from the new, innovative Ph.D. program in economic education at the University of Delaware will be experts in this fast-growing field.
Traditionally, professionals and scholars in economic education have been trained in the specific area of economics or education, with little or no formal training in the other area.
"Economic problems have become more complex and so have the educational issues," said Saul Hoffman, professor and chair of the Department of Economics in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. "The idea of having professionals in the field of economic education who have both sets of skills is absolutely necessary. With this new curriculum design, there's literally nothing like it anywhere in the country. We expect to be the premier program in economic education."
The curriculum requires students to take graduate and doctoral level courses in both economics and education, including theory, research methods and applied topics. Students can also choose electives, which allow them to specialize in one area or the other, depending on their strengths and interests.
Erin Yetter, a native of Delaware, was the first student accepted into the program. With a bachelor of arts in economics and political science from Eastern Kentucky University and a master of arts in economics from the University of South Florida, Yetter says she's always loved economics. But, she also has a really strong interest in education.
Yetter says this degree will allow her to conduct research and contribute to the advancement of the field.
"My dream job would be a tenure-track position with a top research university that has a strong center for economic education, like UD," said Yetter. "That way I could be involved with implementing programs to promote economic literacy in the community, research, and teaching."
The program will draw on the expertise of the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship at UD, as well. Students will learn first hand how a center for economic education works. They will work with schools and teachers and also have opportunities for research through the center.
"We are thrilled this degree became a reality," said Bonnie Meszaros, associate director for the center and assistant professor of economics. "There are more than 200 centers for economic education located on university campuses across the country and many of the directors will be retiring soon. We saw this program as an opportunity to create a pool of individuals who would have the academic credentials to be members of an academic department and the skills necessary to be a successful center director."
Graduates from this Ph.D. program will have a range of professional and academic opportunities. They could work for a university or a center for economic education. They'll also be qualified to work for education units within regional Federal Reserve Banks, for private sector businesses with an interest in educational and financial literacy and for school districts and state departments of instruction.
"I'm trained as a policy researcher and can see so many implications for training future scholars and educators in both fields -- whether bringing economic methods to educational issues or focusing on how we educate people of all ages in economics," Elizabeth Farley-Ripple, assistant professor in SOE and a faculty adviser for the program. "UD's joint endeavor is poised to address the gaps in knowledge and understanding in economic approaches to education and conversely, education approaches to economics."
Students can complete the program in four to five years, depending on their previous graduate work in education or economics. Applications are currently being accepted for next year.
Article and photo by Cassandra Kramer