Spotlight: Meet Professor Katie Baird

Having taught over twenty years within the UW Tacoma community, Professor Katie Baird is a seasoned instructor of economics and CORE curriculum. From teaching, to gardening, to watching shows from other countries, Baird always finds enjoyment and learning opportunities in whatever she’s doing and wherever she’s at.

What classes do you teach?

“I’m an economist, so I mostly teach economics classes. Those are my favorite classes to teach.

However, because I am also a senior member of the faculty, I also teach a lot of service classes, meaning classes that someone within a group of faculty is scheduled to teach. For several years I’ve been teaching in the campus’ CORE curriculum for first year students. I also have taught our internship class for about [eight] years, as well as one of our methods class.”  

Where did you attend college for your degrees?

“For my undergraduate degree, I attended UC Berkeley. I earned a masters degree in agricultural economics at Michigan State University. My PhD in economics is from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Let’s just say my education has allowed me to see the US!”

When did you know you wanted to pursue your field of study? 

“I can say the first class I took in economics I did not like at all. I found myself wanting to dismiss much of what was being taught, but somehow couldn’t. I’m not sure why I took a second economics class, but I did. And that led to a third, and pretty soon I declared it for my major and actually loved my classes.”

What projects are you currently working on?

“I presume you don’t mean my garden project, which is never ending because I’m really not a very good gardener. My main project right now is finishing up a memoir based on my Peace Corps experience 30 years ago. I’d like to say I’m on the verge of publishing it, but I’ve been saying that now for three years or more. It’s been a project that has been very difficult for me to say: “it is done!””

What has been your most favorite experience in teaching at UW Tacoma?

“I love teaching our internship courses, as I enjoy seeing students grow and thrive in a professional setting, and sometimes change how they think about their future. It’s the sort of experience I usually don’t get in a classroom setting.” 

What do you like to do outside of university work?

“Well there is my garden. I am extremely attached to my Labrador retriever, and love when I have time to spend with her, especially taking her to the beach to swim, playing soccer with her, or going hiking. My husband and I love to backpack, and each summer we go on backpacking trips, of course with our dog, who winds up taking up half the tent. 

I really enjoy all of the terrific series on TV, and love finding new ones to watch. Right now I’m watching an Israeli show, “Shtisel,” that a fellow professor recommended. I enjoy reading, although I mostly read non-fiction. Right now I’m reading a gripping book, no pun intended, by Laura Spinney on the Great Influenza pandemic of 1918. 

I’ve been surprised to find how much I’ve enjoyed cooking during all my time at home. I now have a long list of recipes I can’t wait to try. Finally, and this seems long ago, I love to travel, especially abroad, but also short weekend trips away.”

What general advice do you have for students?

“Follow your interests. Your time as an undergraduate is precious. Use it wisely. Follow your interests and take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Use your time here to open as many doors into the future as you can.”

How have you handled this transition into an all-online quarter?

“It was a rough transition for me, honestly. I found it stressful, so much is/was new. Plus, one of my classes did not work in an online format, so a week before classes started, I developed a new class. I’ve been running ever since.”

Fun Fact:

She learned to speak a language from West Africa called Pulaar. She learned to speak it while working in a small village in the country of Mauritania, where she lived for three years. She keeps in touch with old friends from the village regularly through texts where they communicate in Pulaar, although she admits she’s forgotten a bit of the vocabulary.

In her off time, Professor Katie Baird enjoys backpacking around the state, especially with her dog.