Associate professor of economics and women's studies
- By Megan Morley Thomas
Elaine McCrate works with students to make economic theory as real as the streets where they live. Sitting in her Old Mill office, McCrate offers a student concrete examples of an abstract economic theory by giving a local real estate tour in the mind's eye. At the end of the exercise, the student gets it.
McCrate, professor of economics and women's studies at UVM since 1985, is known for her ability to reach out to students — that ability earned her the 2009 George V. Kidder Distinguished Faculty Award, presented by the university's alumni.
"Until I met her, I didn't know I could do it."
McCrate's teaching led Annette Hines, '92, to switch majors from business to economics, as well as to pursue law school and an M.B.A. after her years at UVM. "I probably would still be working as a bank teller or as something else I thought I was destined for," Hines says. "Until I met her, I didn't know I could do it."
Among students, McCrate is known for her passionate interest in leveraging economics to explore issues surrounding women and minorities in the labor market. These issues first began to grab McCrate's interest when she entered college in the 1970s at Ohio State University.
"One professor gave back an exam and said that although the top four exam scores were earned by women, women weren't very good at economics," McCrate says. That fueled McCrate's desire to prove women could excel in the male-dominated field. "I said, 'I'm going to stick around and make their lives miserable,'" she recalls with a smile.
McCrate's passion for social justice issues has an enduring influence on her students. Recalls Jessica Banks, '07, a Teach for America sixth grade instructor in an inner-city Atlanta school: "Right away in freshman year, the issues she tackled and the life experience she brought into the classroom fostered what a lot of people ended up doing."