Supplying Great Teaching
Bob Gitter’s “comfort zone” at Ohio Wesleyan is a classroom full of students in Corns Hall, with a supply and demand graph on the blackboard.
The Joseph A. Meek Professor of Economics, Bob joined OWU in 1976 after earning his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Wisconsin. In those early days, he says he’d linger outside the classrooms of Uwe Woltemade and Norman Leonard, inspired and awed by their lectures.
Now, it’s Bob who provides the example of great economics teaching.
“I want to teach people how to make better decisions and to make things better in terms of jobs and income.”
He teaches courses in labor economics, his main field of interest, as well as public finance, principles, and econometrics. In 1999, he was recognized for his exceptional teaching with the Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award.
Bob grew up in Detroit, prompting a lifelong love affair with the Tigers and a keen insight into the central role of economics in society. “Detroit has been in constant flux since I was born. I’ve seen all the changes in the city, and at the root, much of it is economics.”
|Economics Starts Here
“The supply-demand graph is such a simple but powerful model.” Bob says economics—more so than other social sciences—tends to rely on a model to understand what’s going on with the world.
Don’t expect to see a PowerPoint presentation in Bob’s class. He says in some ways he’s an “old schooler,” always with his printed notes, which he’s constantly revising. “I’ve been teaching Principles of Economics for 40 years, and I have to update my notes every year. What are the issues of the day, and what do we know about them?”
|Exploring New Knowledge
“Good research complements good teaching,” says Bob, who enriches his lectures with his own research experiences. His scholarship is also making important contributions into the field of labor economics. In 2002, his research on earnings and employment of American Indians on and off reservations was published in the premier economics journal, American Economic Review. He also works one-on-one with many students as they dive into economics research.
|The Power of Data
Bob says the biggest change in education he’s seen has been the growing power of computers, which now allow students to quickly access economic data that would have required days of research in the 1970s. “It’s mind boggling. The computing power I have on my phone exceeds the power Ohio Wesleyan had when I came here.”
Does an economist have an edge in a fantasy baseball league? Bob uses statistical methods in economics to build his fantasy league teams—and he’s won the league championship eight times in 25 years. One of his best bargains: Bob acquired Josh Donaldson for $1 before he became an all-star and American League MVP.
|Starbucks Dark Roast
“An economics professor is a machine that converts coffee into lectures.” Bob’s personal mug features photos of his six grandchildren. His three children are Seth Gitter, Leah Gitter, and OWU psychology graduate Dan Greenleaf ’05. He and Liz Gitter have been happily married for 42 years.
This gift from a student from South Asia is one of many Bob has received from his students over the years. He’s especially grateful to have taught some 30 students whose parents were also in his classes years ago. “I’m really honored by that. It’s a great responsibility.”