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Don't tell Charity-Joy that economics is boring; she'll be quick to prove you wrong

Sep. 8th, 2013
KyForward

Charity-Joy
Economics professor Charity-Joy Acchiardo doesn’t accept the study of economics as boring – and she strives to prove it daily in her classes at Transylvania University.
(Photo from Transylvania. Not pictured: Dracula)

Charity-Joy Acchiardo understands that many students perceive the study of economics as dry, uninteresting and disconnected to the realities of their everyday lives. But she also knows that isn’t true. And she’s determined to prove it.

“At the start of one semester, I began the class by asking what came to mind when I said the word ‘economics,’” said Acchiardo. “Students replied with adjectives like ‘boring’ and ‘hard.’ One individual called out, ‘Shoot me!’ I smiled as students laughed and nodded in agreement.”

Understanding those preconceptions, Acchiardo knows better than to spend her class time simply introducing economic terms and principles. She gets her students actively engaged in observing their own worlds and solving the puzzles they find there. During class, she makes an effort to use language familiar to students and incorporates media clips from TV, movies and music.

“New concepts must be communicated skillfully, but to be fully embraced, they must be integrated into the students’ own experience. I eagerly anticipate the transformation that occurs when students stop thinking of our subject matter as a far removed, abstract set of principles and start to see how it intersects their lives.”

Acchiardo also puts an emphasis on collaborative learning by dividing the class into teams. This helps students get comfortable sharing their ideas and considering viewpoints expressed by others. It also improves their analytical thinking and builds their confidence. And, incidentally, it’s an effective way to reinforce economic principles.

“I use this team experience to teach them about comparative advantage, institutions, competition, public goods, free riding and more.”

Travel is Acchiardo’s passion, but it also informs her understanding of economics. She taught in Germany for three years, volunteered with children-oriented nonprofits in Belize and Thailand, and presented workshops in Canada and Denmark. She has also visited a couple dozen other countries, including Japan, Cambodia, and Turkey. In addition, she’s an Arabic linguist who specializes in the political economy of the Middle East.

“My work draws attention to the dynamic, active nature of economic decision-making and its entanglement with social and political processes. For example, I study the effects of government involvement on nonprofits’ resource allocation decisions and the important implications for the populations they serve. And I have examined the mechanisms employed by dictators to gain information needed to maintain power.”

Acchiardo is fearless in her personal pursuits — whether it’s ice climbing in Alaska or kayaking the Colorado River—and she hopes to transfer her passion for experiencing the world to her students.

“With each class, I have the opportunity to journey with my students, sharing their excitement as they discover the many ways the principles I teach apply to them. My goal is to direct their focus to what lies beyond the final exam and give them the tools and motivation to continue on their own.“

“I encourage them to begin to see themselves as more than students: They are future colleagues and valuable contributors to our field.”
. . .


Originally published by KyForward.com | Kentucky's Online Newspaper.
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