As a child, Dr. Gail Hoyt "was like the Girl Scout who had to sell the most cookies," and she's carried that love for all things entrepreneurial in her teaching career as an economics professor at Gatton College. So when plans were revealed for Gatton's expansion and renovation project, Dr. Hoyt was especially excited about how the remodeled facility will lend to creativity in the classroom.
"Ideas can pop!" she says. "There will be more places where faculty students can sit down and talk. There will be a lot of individual study areas to work on group projects. And a big part of the goal is to increase capacity and create opportunities for students to interact with each other."
Her enthusiasm for business creation and mentoring others has transferred to the Global Scholars students in one of her classes. Since 2007, her students have gone into local middle schools and taught 6th and 7th graders about the global economy and financial literacy. The effort is in partnership with Junior Achievement of the Bluegrass, a non-profit organization that brings the real world to students through hands-on curriculum delivered by trained classroom volunteers, like the UK students. This year, 55 UK students were Junior Achievement teachers.
"They went in once a week for six weeks. The nice thing is, they're able to build a rapport. They know the students by name, and a lot of them find themselves hugging goodbye," Dr. Hoyt says.
Programs like this led to Dr. Hoyt being named this year as recipient of the 2013 Interfraternity Distinguished Professor Award. She joined Gatton in 1994. Dr. Hoyt received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Kentucky in 1992 and her B.S. in economics from Centre College in Danville, KY, in 1988. She was an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia from 1992 until coming to Kentucky in 1994.
I'm personally excited about capacity. I currently teach large groups in Memorial Hall and have for 16 or 17 years. I love the building, but technology-wise, it's not fabulous in the classroom. They do the best they can, but a large lecture hall has to be state-of-the-art with acoustics and seating layout. My last day in Memorial Hall will be sad, because I've been there so long, but the new building will change the capability in what we're able to do."
During her undergraduate years at the liberal arts college, she chose to study economics because there wasn't a business major. "But I took more classes in labor economics, which looks at poverty and women's and gender issues and earning," she says. "I looked at monopolies and anti-trust – areas I found interesting. It made me want to stick with the major. I think that I like the policy aspect."
When at the University of Richmond, Dr. Hoyt did combined research on labor and industrial organizations. "I looked at drug use – whether or not employers use drug testing and if employees used Employee Assistance Programs," she says.
She switched gears after coming to UK, focusing her research on economics education. "I never thought I wanted to be a teacher, but as a graduate student, I had to teach to be paid. The first time I did it, I really liked it," she recalls. She was accustomed to small classes from her undergraduate years, and the first class she actually taught had 60 students. Even though class sizes at UK can be up to 500 students, Dr. Hoyt still tries to bring that interpersonal flavor to the lecture hall.
"I keep that liberal arts frame of reference in how I structure things, even though I have more students," she says. "I think about how to present economics in a way that puts it in context of other disciplines as well."
And speaking of teaching hundreds of students, Dr. Hoyt is especially looking forward to teaching in a new lecture hall that will be available once the Gatton building campaign is complete.
"I'm personally excited about capacity. I currently teach large groups in Memorial Hall and have for 16 or 17 years. I love the building, but technology-wise, it's not fabulous in the classroom. They do the best they can, but a large lecture hall has to be state-of-the-art with acoustics and seating layout. My last day in Memorial Hall will be sad, because I've been there so long, but the new building will change the capability in what we're able to do," she says.
Looking toward the future and what Gatton's expansion means to her personally, Dr. Hoyt says it represents what teaching is all about: a privilege. More students will be able to attend Gatton, and more teachers will have the privilege of teaching them, she says.
She employs her attitude towards teaching that she learned from a now-retired UK professor, Dr. James Donnelly. "When I first came here in 1994, I talked to him because he was a great teacher. I wanted his advice. He said when he thinks about teaching, he realizes it's a privilege. And I've heard him say it many, many times. What a great privilege it is to teach here. I've believed that philosophy since I've been here. Yeah, it wears you down when you're doing things like grading, but the students are great students. He'd been teaching here for decades. I believed him, but I didn't know it for myself. Now, having been here almost 20 years, I can understand it. I have had a whole generation of students."