Paula Worthington, Lecturer in the Harris Graduate School of Public Policy StudiesBy Rob McManamy
With a resume that boasts economics degrees from Northwestern and Cornell universities, as well as successful professional stops at the Federal Reserve Banks of both New York and Chicago, Paula Worthington commands considerable authority when she opines on the most effective ways to implement public policy.
“I’m an economist,” said Worthington, now in her second year at the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies. “I want my students to learn, appreciate and ultimately apply some simple economic tools to ‘real world’ problems, because I believe that economics has so much to offer public policy.”
And that belief has struck a chord with her students. Enough, in fact, that this spring, the Harris School’s Public Policy Student Association voted Worthington “Best Teacher of a Non-Core Class.” Her courses this academic year included “Cost Benefit Analysis,” “Service Provision by the Local Public Sector” and “Financing State and Local Government.”
“This is the first time that I have taught at the graduate level, and what’s nice about it is that the students here bring an energy level into class with them that is truly inspiring,” Worthington says. “They are very ambitious, and the work they do is of a very high quality.”
Worthington has been producing her own high-quality work since receiving her Ph.D. in economics from Northwestern University in 1988. From there, she spent the next 12 years with the Federal Reserve Bank, first as an economist in New York City, and then as a research officer, economic advisor and senior research economist for the institution in Chicago.
“My experience at the Federal Reserve Bank offered me great training in applied policy work; and my Northwestern teaching stint gave me valuable classroom time,” says a reflective Worthington.
“Also, my involvement in local public affairs in Evanston (her former home) taught me how crucial schools and other public services are to communities—and how economic analysis can, and should, help guide civic decision-making.”
Since 2000, Worthington’s published research has included papers and conference presentations titled “Productivity in the Manufacturing Sector,” “Do Small Banks Have an Advantage in Lending? An Examination of Business Lending Performance by Large and Small Banks” and “A Quick (and Not Too Dirty) Way to Compare States in Terms of Business Tax Burden.”
“What I am really about is educating students about how and when to apply these economic tools throughout their careers, wherever they are, and no matter where their beliefs may fall on the political spectrum,” she explains.
Granted, some students might consider her subject area to be dry, but in the post-9/11, post-Katrina world in which we now live, Worthington’s public policy students are very much engaged. And with her guidance, they can see clearly how directly the big picture can affect the little picture. “I think that is why every one of these students is here,” she says.