By Sarah Horn – One of the benefits of studying at William Jewell College is the quality of its professors. The college attracts and retains individuals who are not only experts in their subject matter, but are also passionate about teaching. Dr. Michael Thomas Cook, Boatwright Professor of Economics, is one of these individuals.
Dr. Cook began his undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago as a physics major. His junior year, he reconsidered his interest in physics, and an aptitude test at the career counseling center pointed him toward economics. After successfully completing the University of Chicago’s beginning economics course, notorious for an 80 percent flunk-out rate, he decided to pursue economics.
He was drafted into the army while in college, and served three years after graduating and getting married.
Upon completing his military service, he decided to further pursue his education. He received an Interdisciplinary Masters degree in the social sciences from University of Chicago in 1973. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from Vanderbilt in 1983, with an Associate Degree in Latin American Studies.
It was while working on his degrees at Vanderbilt that he decided he wanted to teach. He worked with Professor Rendigs Fells whose fields of research included the economics of teaching. Professor Fells worked with Dr. Cook to hone his teaching skills.
In 1978, while still in the process of completing his Doctorate Degree from Vanderbilt University, Dr. Cook was offered a position at Jewell, in addition to opportunities at two other institutions. His reasons for accepting Jewell‘s offer above the others were not monetary; Jewell would allow him to teach a variety of courses, and help design the new general education program.
Dr. Cook seized both of these opportunities. He was part of the group that created the program that developed into CTI, and has taught CTI courses at all levels. He also helped construct the Oxbridge Program and lists the tutorials among his favorite courses to teach. The economics courses he teaches are diverse, from Money and Banking, to International Economics, to Developmental Economics.
Dr. Cook visited Brazil while on sabbatical in 1989, and participated in a teacher exchange program in China during Fall Semester 2010. He chose to do this recent exchange program in China because of its importance to the world economy now and in the future. The topic of China’s economy and how it affects the world economy comes up in many of his classes and it is beneficial to have Dr. Cook as a first-hand source of information.
Dr. Cook is passionate about helping students learn. He enjoys leading students down a path to find the correct answer. Students are occasionally intimidated at first, but appreciate the added understanding that comes with discovering the solution for themselves. Dr. Cook also likes being involved in his students’ research papers. He has published multiple papers with students, and has used some of their ideas to build on and inspire his research. Dr. Cook’s expertise in teaching is obvious to those around him. In 2004, he was the Recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching for a teacher at a Private College.
When Dr. Cook is not teaching he enjoys reading. He has kept a list of the books he read since he graduated from high school; since then, he has read on average over 200 books a year. His readings are eclectic, varying greatly from historical novels to books of short stories to science fiction. He also collects stamps from Spain. He was attracted to Spain’s stamps in college because they showed artists and were very colorful. Since then, he has collected all but a few of the stamps issued in Spain from the last 60 years. Even in his hobbies, Dr. Cook is a passionate scholar.