‘You Don’t Learn If You Don’t Ever Fail’

Economics professors' attention to detail and passion for teaching earns her the Distinguished Teaching Award
Kathryn Wilson

From teaching the basics of economics to pushing her students to think critically and deeply in her senior seminar course, Kathryn Wilson, Ph.D., professor of economics at Kent State University, designs her courses with the intention of having students achieve.  

“It's more than just having the students learn economics,” Wilson said. “Sure, I want them to work economics but also to work on their critical-thinking skills, so they are comfortable using data to solve problems.”  

Wilson designs her courses to challenge students and prepare them for times in their lives when they may be pushed past their comfort zones.  

“My students know it's okay to be challenged,” Wilson said, “and they know it’s okay to fail on something because you don’t learn if you don’t ever fail.”

Wilson’s coursework doesn’t just reflect her economic knowledge. Wilson has also built into her courses ways to ensure that students can feel the genuine love she has for them, such as the “Monday Mojo” exercise that has nothing to do with economics but everything to do with how the students are managing.

Kathryn Wilson receives Distinguished Teaching Award surprise visit in class

“Monday Mojo asks the students their emotion forecast for the week,” Wilson said. “For those who see storm clouds ahead, we talk about how we can’t control the weather but can prepare for it.”

Her course design and the impact those courses have made on her students have earned Wilson one of the three Distinguish Teaching Awards in 2023. The award is the university’s most prestigious honor in teaching and has been sponsored by the Kent State University Alumni Association since 1967.

“Teaching is my passion,” Wilson said, “so obviously, anytime your students recognize what you're doing, it feels good.”

The balance between positively challenging her students and supporting them to grow and understand the world around them has made a notable impact on her past students. Her nomination from students reflected this. “She understood that there really is no mental growth if you don’t get out of your comfort zone and expand your mind with difficult content,” a student wrote.

Kathryn Wilson receives Distinguished Teaching Award at UTC meeting

When asked about any memorable moments, Wilson says the most meaningful part of teaching is watching her students grow.  

“To see students truly start to see themselves as economists and then see them go out and get jobs where they’re analyzing problems,” Wilson said, “It's pretty awesome.”  

Kathryn Wilson poses with balloons during surprise DTA Visit

Wilson not only has a notable love for her students but also for her peers as well.  

“When I look up and down this hall in the economics department, I see people who love to teach,” Wilson said. “I’m fortunate to be in a department where I can learn from my colleagues.”

Wilson said she can think of no honor that would mean more to her than being selected for the Distinguished Teaching Award.  

Wilson was honored Friday, Oct. 20, along with other nominees and winners of the Distinguished Teaching and Outstanding Teaching Awards at the annual University Teaching Council Conference.  

Kathryn Wilson poses with OTA and DTA winners at UTC Event

Learn more about the Department of Economics. 

POSTED: Monday, November 13, 2023 04:05 PM
Updated: Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:12 AM
Paul Burlinghaus, Flash Communications