Committee Spotlight: Q&A with Sam Allgood, Chair of the Task Force on Outreach to High School and Undergraduate Students in Economics
Sam Allgood is the Edwin J. Faulkner Professor of Economics at the University of Nebraska. He serves as the Chair of the Task Force on Outreach to High School and Undergraduate Students in Economics. Below, he answers some questions about the task force's mission and activities.
The mission of the Task Force on Outreach to High School and Undergraduate Students in Economics is to "work to increase outreach to students at the high school and college levels, with the goal of attracting more women and underrepresented minorities into economics." Can you tell us more about how the task force is approaching this goal?
The approach taken by the task force is based on two assumptions regarding the causes of the underrepresentation of women and some minorities in our profession. First, we believe that most students do not know what economics is, what economists do, or what jobs are available to them if they major in economics. Thus, we must find ways to educate students before they reach our classrooms and once they are in the classroom. Second, what we teach and how we teach matters. There is incredible inertia in the content we teach our students and in the pedagogies that we utilize. As a result, today's economics classrooms do not reflect the current science of the field or the current science of teaching.
What kinds of challenges does the task force face in its current work?
It has been difficult to identify other individuals and groups that have been working toward this same goal and to learn about their contributions to achieving our goal. It is also a challenge to effectively distribute information to some of the groups we need to reach, such as high school students and community college faculty. Lastly, we are asking for change. For example, the task force thinks it is important for us to rethink what we teach and how we teach it. But there has been little change over the last few decades so overcoming this inertia is a challenge.
Who should think about applying for the EDUCATE workshop, which happens annually in early June?
Anybody who teaches undergraduate students should consider applying. EDUCATE leans heavily into the idea, of which there is supportive research, that how we teach is very important for retaining more women and underrepresented minorities. The workshop introduces a number of pedagogies that are designed to actively engage students in their learning. Participants are also given the opportunity to discuss how to engage their students in the difficult conversations that arise in economics classrooms.
The Task Force on Outreach recently began promoting an option for teachers and guidance counselors in schools to order free economics posters to decorate their classrooms. How will you be getting the word out about this?
This is one of the challenges mentioned above. Luckily, there are groups that work directly with high school economics teachers. The National Association of Economic Educators has been supportive in trying to get the word out. Our colleagues working on economic education at the Federal Reserve also work regularly with high school teachers, and they will hopefully provide another conduit for getting the word out.
How can people get involved or volunteer to help?
Apply to the EDUCATE workshop next January when applications open. If you are currently updating your curriculum in an effort to attract underrepresented groups, please reach out to a member of the Task Force on Outreach. We would love to hear what you are doing. We would also want to learn of any other efforts that are being undertaken to attract more women and minorities into economics. We would consider ways to support these efforts, by helping spread the word and scaling up existing projects.
Do you have any new initiatives or upcoming events that you would like people to be aware of?
The third EDUCATE workshop will be held next June (2023) after the Conference on Teaching and Research in Economic Education (CTREE). The task force is also curating existing resources for updating the economics curriculum so that it is more reflective of the current field of economics. A new web page will become available on the AEA Committee on Economic Education (AEACEE) website once this is completed. We are also continuing conversations with colleagues at the Federal Reserve to learn how we can support one of their ongoing teacher training initiatives.
What is the best way to stay up-to-date on the task force's activities?
Please look for announcements in upcoming AEA email blasts. The Task Force on Outreach will be working with the Committee on Economic Education on the development of a new newsletter. This will become an important avenue for spreading the task force's current activities.