The faculty are the core of Centre College. Of all the College’s constituencies, they are the ones who are here the longest. It is they who nurture the culture of the place—the sense of common purpose, the collegiality and the passion and energy—and that they share so enthusiastically with their students. This spring, seven of our most venerable professors retired. Before moving on to new adventures, they took time to answer a few questions for our summer issue of Centrepiece.
My initial intent was to teach mathematics. While I was in graduate school, NASA had a significant reduction in funding, so many mathematicians flooded the teaching market. Since I have always wanted to teach—it’s been my dream since grade school—I decided to take a chance and transfer from math to a graduate program in economics. The gamble paid off for me.
My first experiences with teaching were at large universities, where lecturing was the accepted methodology. Since that time, my teaching style has increasingly emphasized “active modes of learning” depending more on discussion, in-class experiments, use of the Socratic method, student presentations, and debate.
I believe that the world is totally connected. There is not one thing that happens anywhere in the universe that doesn’t influence everything else. This accounts for my love of Centre College, the liberal arts and interdisciplinary courses.
The courses I most like to teach are the ones where I integrate many disciplines and compare conflicting paradigms (senior seminar, comparative economic systems and history of economic thought). One of the most memorable experiences I have had at Centre was the team-taught course in political economy with members of the politics program.
If there is one thing I hope my students take away with them, it is this principle of connectivity and the limits to our understanding of the world. Our success and knowledge is dependent upon how richly connected our theories are.
I have had a full and diverse life: graduate school in mathematics and becoming an economist, establishing an Office of Institutional Research at Centre, becoming a commercial pilot and buying a small plane, being a photographer, teaching scuba diving at Centre and elsewhere, engaging in art and ceramics with my daughter, and exploring medicine with my wife. My current interest is to investigate the connections between neuroscience and economics. I will also have more time for kayaking, scuba diving, and golf while in Florida during the winter months.
by Steve Winrich