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Staff Spotlight – Jamie Wagner

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FTE is known nationally for its emphasis on active learning and the engaging activities and lessons used to teach economics. This starts with selecting the best economic professors from across the U.S. This week we are putting the spotlight on Dr. Jamie Wagner.

Jamie Wagner is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Nebraska and directs the Center for Economic Education. Teaching economics is her passion–she loves helping students understand economics and realize that it is not as complex as they might have feared. Her goal is to help students feel comfortable with thinking like an economist (a highly useful skill that businesses are seeking in their employees!). As the Director of the Center for Economic Education she works with K-16 teachers to help them effectively teach economics and personal finance in a way that is active and engaging. Her research, teaching, and center work all focus on making people better decision-makers.

Wagner first got involved with FTE as a graduate student and attended the Economics of Disasters session where Debbie Henney and Kathy Ratte were presenting. It was so much fun that Wagner went up to them at the break and asked if there was a way to get involved with FTE because it seemed like such a great opportunity. She taught at her first Economics for Leaders session in 2016 and trained with Don Fell at Rice University and again with Ken Leonard at the University of Washington. She has done camps every summer since, including 5 virtual camps in Summer 2020!

Jamie says that her favorite thing about working with FTE is the great people she gets to meet and interact with and loves getting to meet or see again some of her favorite faculty and staff members. If it weren’t for FTE, she wouldn’t know her FTE best friend, Dee Goines! She also really loves getting to interact with the students who come to the camps—they are intelligent, passionate, and fun people. “I like watching a group of 40 or so students go from strangers to best friends throughout the week.”

Jamie loves teaching Econ! It’s become a joke with her students that almost every day she say something like “this topic is my favorite topic.” So when we asked her what her favorite econ lesson to teach is, she had a hard time picking just one. “Some of the topics that are the most impactful for students are the ideas of opportunity cost and that every decision you have to give something up—it really helps students think better and make more thoughtful decisions,” says Jamie. “I also think the supply and demand model is so important to understand because it helps us understand how dynamic markets are and where prices of goods and services comes from.”

Dr. Wagner thinks it is important that young individuals learn about economics. She says that, “Economics seems like a super complex concept and many people can be intimidated by it. Usually people come into econ thinking they are going to spend all of the time learning about stocks or other financial aspects but it’s so much simpler than that. Economics is the study of choices! It’s that simple. And because we make choices all the time everyone uses economics! Understanding concepts like opportunity cost is really powerful for everyone to help them make more informed decisions.”

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