Dr. Durga Gautam is a lecturer in the division of politics, philosophy and public affairs — a division of the school of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences — and teaches several courses from understanding economics to international economics. He brings a passion for learning into his classes and strives to let all students have their voices heard and express their views. Between reading, researching and balancing his personal and professional life, Dr. Gautam took some time to tell the Ledger about himself and some of his interests.
Q: WHERE DID YOU ATTEND COLLEGE AS AN UNDERGRADUATE AND GRADUATE STUDENT?
A: I started my college education at Tribhuvan University, [in] Nepal. As an undergraduate student, I studied pure sciences and earned a [Bachelors of Science] in physics. After switching my major to economics and obtaining an M.A. in economics, I came to the United States for higher studies. I obtained a second M.A. in economics and a graduate certificate in data mining from Central Michigan University in 2010. My strong passion for learning [about] economics pushed me to join the graduate program at West Virginia University, where I received my Ph.D. in economics in 2015.
Q: HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON YOUR FIELD OF STUDY/EXPERTISE? WHAT DREW YOU TO THE SUBJECT?
A: I did not have a clear direction for life even during my bachelor’s years of schooling. I think I then began to develop a sense of purpose and new commitments, which perhaps caused a shift in my perception of career choices. In effect, I ended up switching my major from pure sciences to social sciences, such as economics, although I did not know much about economics. At that point, all I was trying to do was direct my focus to learn [about] how society works and how I could prepare myself for the society’s needs. I think my current role as an instructor at UWT and my ongoing scholarship activities are just a part of this preparation process.
Q: WHEN DID YOU DECIDE THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A PROFESSOR? WHAT DREW YOU TO UW TACOMA?
A: I decided to choose teaching as my life long career only after getting my masters. Deciding to go for Ph.D. typically — but not always! — means deciding not to go directly for [public] industries or government jobs. It usually means teaching, academic research and publications, which are what I really love to do, and I have profound passion for doing them. The “rich multidisciplinary curriculum maintained by the SIAS” and my “desire to serve a highly diverse student body, including many transfer students” are the two main reasons behind my interest in joining the faculty at UWT.
Q: WHAT CLASSES DO YOU TEACH HERE AT UWT? WHICH ONES DO YOU MOST ENJOY TEACHING?
A: My classes at UWT include: understanding economics, principles of microeconomics, international economics, and poverty in developing countries. My favorite class is international economics, which I’m currently teaching. This course is a great mix of basic trade theories, historical episodes, international relations, investment, and migration. Students are exposed to many different viewpoints and approaches to the concept of international economics. I use current news and several case studies to demonstrate how the concepts developed in the classroom can have profound real-life implications.
Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT TEACHING AT UWT?
A: At UWT, I like the diversity of student population in my classes, I like the opportunities bestowed in medium-sized classes, and I like the fun of being in spacious classrooms. Although a diverse class is challenging, students from different backgrounds have different stories to tell, which can make class discussion exciting and interesting. I enjoy cultural richness and try to harness cultural diversity for inclusive learning and teaching enrichment. Similarly, a small student-faculty ratio can provide mutual benefits to both the student and faculty. It is easy to motivate students in small classes, encourage them reach their full potential, and help them find passion in life.
Q: WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF BEING A PROFESSOR?
A: Everyone has their own life and individual circumstances. So do college professors. If you define yourself to be something, you need to focus on the things that matter to you the most. What matters the most as a professor? I think it’s teaching, research, and your services to the university and campus community. The hardest part of my role as an instructor would be to balance out my personality more of a teacher, guide, or mentor, and less of other roles such as a friend, husband, parent, or a community member.
Q: WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU OFFER UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS?
A: My advice to undergraduate students is simple: Do not major in minor things! Take little time to think about your current as well as long-term goals. Develop professional attitudes and relationships. Find someone (e.g., a friend, a professor, a community member etc.) who believes in you, listen to them, and bring them into your life. Commit to make things happen and take actions. Measure your progress on a daily basis and remember that you are the major key for your successful future. I believe that undergraduate students must act this way before it is too late for them. Four years in college sounds like a long time, but it passes in the blink of an eye.
Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT TEACHING? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR HOBBIES?
A: My hobbies include traveling to new places, reading new books about economics, history and politics, and meeting new people, friends, and families.
Dr Gautam loves to travel and has kept track of where and when he has visited different places:
- Mount Rushmore, Black Hills, Keystone, SD
- Jones Beach Air Show, Memorial Day Weekend 2018, Long Island, NY
- Niagara Falls, Boat Rides, NY