Making Change

Professor takes on-the-ground approach to economic development

Shawn Humphrey came to UMW seven years ago, 34 years old and a freshly minted associate professor, ready to teach his young charges what he calls the “very beautiful” theories of economics. “As economists, we try to create these mathematical models to explain why things are the way they are,” he said. What he didn’t bring was an answer for a sharp question asked by a few students in his first comparative economics class. They had been working in poor communities in Honduras, as part of Students Helping Honduras, SHH, a nonprofit group started at UMW by Shin Fujiyama ’07. The students wanted to know, how do we change the way things are? “They started challenging me,” Humphrey said. “They asked, ‘How do your lectures prepare me for helping others?’ I never had an answer for them. I was like, ‘Who are these people?’ ” In the same way that the experience in Honduras had changed the students, their question changed Humphrey. What distinguishes him as a teacher is his willingness … [Read more...]