June 6, 2002
Vol. 21 No. 17

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    Don Coursey, Ameritech Professor of Public Policy in the Harris School

    By Peter Schuler
    News Office

    Don Coursey

    For the fourth consecutive year, Don Coursey, the Ameritech Professor of Public Policy in the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, has been named “Professor of the Year” by the Harris School student group. He was honored for the quality of his teaching of one of the Core courses in the school’s Master of Public Policy Program, Principles of Microeconomics and Public Policy II.

    Coursey is a noted experimental economist whose primary scholarly research and writing has been concerned with reliable measures of preferences and values for public goods, such as environmental quality.

    His work has focused on comparisons of demand for international environmental quality, environmental legislation in the United States and public preferences for environmental outcomes relative to other social and economic goals.

    Coursey cited the influence of a gifted teacher in his doctoral program at the University of Arizona who provided a model for teaching that he has followed throughout his career. “I had the opportunity as a graduate student to absorb the lessons of teaching from a great professor, John Drabicki,” Coursey said.

    Drabicki is an associate professor and assistant department head in the department of economics at the University of Arizona. He teaches macroeconomics, international economics and applied microeconomic theory.

    “He is a natural-born teacher,” Coursey said in homage to his academic mentor. “And we never talked about teaching; we always talked about economics. But I watched how he operated and how he kept his class presence. He did not use notes, which really changed the experience because economics is not a linear subject to learn and some steps are much more difficult than others. If you use notes, you tend to linearize things.

    “He had a solid intellectual presence and was always organized and in command,” Coursey continued. “He knew just how to draw more out of us than we thought we had and never allowed us to go off on a tangent without being four steps ahead of us.”

    Students in the Harris School have praised Coursey’s teaching in much the same way that Coursey speaks of Drabicki. Amy Paris, one of Coursey’s students in the microeconomics class for which he received the teaching award, explained the consistent recognition for his teaching ability.

    “Professor Coursey not only teaches very challenging topics to a group that has little background on the subject, but he manages to make the jump from theory to application that few professors achieve.

    “His class presence is one of extreme creativity and dynamism, while at the same time he gets to know each student on an individual level and promotes an openness that all of us feel is a tremendous benefit for our first year in graduate studies.”

    Paris said Coursey always made extra efforts to be available to the first-year students for academic and professional guidance at a time when they most needed this support.

    “Everyone at the Harris School values Professor Coursey for his talent as a professor but also for his personal kindness,” she said. “And he forces students to challenge themselves to take economics to a level that was unimaginable to them before they sat down in his class.”