OGDEN, Utah – A Weber State University faculty member is in the midst of a fellowship that has her conducting research and teaching in the United Kingdom.
Mary V. Wrenn, associate professor of economics at WSU, began her activities in early October at Girton College at the University of Cambridge after earning the Joan Robinson Research Fellowship in Heterodox Economics.
“I am absolutely thrilled about the fellowship, especially the nature of the fellowship — specifically created for research in heterodox economics,” Wrenn said. “It is one of the first research fellowships in the world specifically designated for heterodox economics.”
While there is no universally accepted definition or scope of heterodox economics, it embraces an interdisciplinary approach to the study of economics as a social science that is intimately and indelibly connected to other social sciences, such as political science, anthropology and history. It advocates for a pluralistic approach to the methodology, study and teaching of economics.
Wrenn’s current research focuses on certain concepts within the historical context of the 1970s to the present. “My hope is that my research will help shine a light on the types of choices individuals make based on the historical, political and economic context in which they live,” she said.
In addition to pursuing her own research, Wrenn conducts undergraduate teaching on behalf of the college on a wide range of economic topics. The teaching is in the form of small group tutorials known as supervisions, during which Wrenn and the students work through problems together, discuss class material in greater detail and resolve any questions students might have with their class lectures.
Wrenn applied for the fellowship last year after seeing an e-mail post about it. “Right away, I knew it was an opportunity I would love to have,” she said. After filling out an application, sending research documents and flying to Cambridge for an interview, Wrenn received the fellowship.
“I was very cautious about my hopes for the fellowship, as it is the only fellowship of which I’ve ever heard specifically created for a heterodox economist. There are many talented heterodox economists throughout the world; I knew the competition would be fierce,” she said.
The fellowship, which is jointly supported by Girton College and the Cambridge Political Economy Society Trust, is renewable for multiple years. It typically is awarded to researchers at an early stage in their academic careers and who recently have completed a PhD or are close to completion.
WSU has offered Wrenn two years of leave to pursue this opportunity. When she returns, Wrenn’s students at WSU will benefit from her continued research, her work with faculty at Cambridge whose work she has drawn from in the past, and her exposure to different instructional models, according to Doris Geide-Stevenson, economics professor and chair of the economics department.
“The role she plays obviously will be strengthened by her experience at Cambridge University. For her to work with people who do research along the same lines is a real opportunity. When people get that opportunity and develop these networks, they are really energized about their areas of study and their areas of instruction,” she said.
Geide-Stevenson noted that the Cambridge experience will bolster Wrenn, who already is well versed in various schools of economic thought, as she teaches a History of Economic Thought course. “With that, she fills a unique niche in our department and makes a strong contribution to exposing students to various methods of analysis in economics,” Geide-Stevenson said. “That class, in particular, draws on many different schools of thought that she can bring back into the classroom from her fellowship.”
Jeff Steagall, dean of WSU’s John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics, said that any teaching abroad “makes you become a better teacher. You have to challenge all assumptions regarding who your audience is, and we all need to pay more and more attention to those things.”
Steagall noted that Wrenn’s fellowship validates that WSU’s faculty “is as good as any in the world.”
“Mary is in a unique position because the person who goes to Cambridge has to teach traditional economics and heterodox economics, and a person who can wear both of those hats, especially at the Cambridge level, is very rare,” he said. “She is a young scholar and has made a name for herself on an international scale.”
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Mary Wrenn, associate economics professor
Doris Geide-Stevenson, economics department chair
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Jeff Steagall, dean, John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics
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