June 12, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 18

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    2003 Graduate Teaching Awards in the Professional Schools: Bob Michael, the Eliakim Hastings Moore Distinguished Service Professor in the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies

    By Peter Schuler
    News Office

    Bob Michael
    "It really is a joy," said Robert Michael, describing the process of teaching Harris School students. Michael, the Eliakim Hastings Moore Distinguished Service Professor in the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies and its former Dean, has been named Professor of the Year for teaching in non-Core courses.

    "We have a culture in this school that cares deeply about teaching," Michael said. "In other places, you usually don't have people sitting around at lunchtime working on strategies to improve their teaching, but that's what we have here."

    This year, for the first time in a highly productive 30-year career, most of it spent at Chicago, Michael was freed of major administrative and research responsibilities to teach a full course load that included the Economics of Child and Family Policy and Poverty and the Economics of Education. He also directed the Civic Internship and McCormick Tribune Leadership Fellows programs.

    Michael is an internationally recognized scholar on family economics. In 1994, he helped oversee the first scientific study of U.S. sexual practices, resulting in landmark books co-authored with Edward Laumann, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor in Sociology and the College.

    "Our students have always been more interested in real-world solutions to big problems than the purely academic," Michael said. "As all the best policy schools have matured, it is now understood that a graduate has solid grounding in political economy, economics and statistics. Students here are more demanding and respectful of what we teach them because they need it and will have to use it when they go downtown and help the Mayor run his budget or go to Washington and shape policy in health or education," explained Michael.

    Harris School students are put to the same rigorous academic test, as are all students at the University.

    "We expect them to be able read and understand sophisticated journals in any area of public policy," Michael said. "If you're going to study marriage and divorce, you're going to have to read Gary Becker's treatise, which has lots of calculus and is pretty dense. If you can't follow the calculus and the statistics, you'll never be able to critique that treatise effectively and use its insights when you graduate."

    "The level of teaching among all the faculty here is extremely high," Michael said. "We take great pride in being good teachers. It's the Harris School that really wins this award, not me."