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Billy Foster, PhD

Billy Foster

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The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. — John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1935)

Archive for the ‘Methodology Statements’ Category

I was fortunate to have some outstanding teachers in my life. They shaped me as a person, a student, and a teacher. As they inspired my learning, they also created my passion for teaching. In the last few years, I have taken almost every teaching opportunity I can. The process inspires new ideas for my research, strengthens my communication of the material, and renews my passion for the field.

Good teaching requires empathy and enthusiasm. I have been a student my entire life. This gives me the ability to understand what students expect and also what they should be given by their instructors. Students can sense when people do not care about what they are presenting. I am lucky to be teaching something that I am truly passionate about. I am rewarded when I see understanding in my students.

I push my students hard. I have a reputation as a rigorous instructor and a fair grader. Education is what you make of it. Students often enter my classes very concerned about grades. They quickly learn that I am concerned about their understanding of the material. Attendance is taken in all my classes. My exams are tough. I curve grades, but each semester I have a handful of students that require no curve to achieve a natural A. I often encourage these students to aim higher than simply graduating.

I believe in outside reading. I love books. In almost every class that I teach there is a required book other than the textbook. Economics is about telling good stories. There is no shortage of quality writing outside of journals and textbooks. I embrace these works in the classroom and my spare time.

I treat every class I teach as a performance. A quality education should combine good stories with a memorable delivery. While presentation is important, content is king. I believe this to be very true in higher education. I strive to bring the clearest, most relevant, and most memorable content into my classroom.

Technology is changing the way we learn. This year, I have incorporated clicker response systems into my courses. It has changed the dynamic of the classroom and allows students to observe their own economic behavior in real time instead of some given data. Also this year, I began creating content for a company that specializes in non-linear learning. It is as if a virtual tutor is guiding you through the material. This is the future path of learning.

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THEME: The common thread of all my research thus far is the existence of natural experiments that cover the entire United States over extended periods of time. This has required that I create very large datasets often converting qualitative public records into usable quantitative formats.

FINDINGS: The research I have conducted thus far suggests that smoking bans have a positive effect on bar and restaurant employment unless it easy to avoid such policies with travel; that these same smoking bans increase drunk driving fatalities in border areas where policies are inconsistent; that placing pseudoephedrine behind the counter in pharmacies only reduces the number of methamphetamine labs if all neighboring states have the same policy; that members of congress ask for more public subsidies and fewer private subsidies as they gain experience; and that making the playoffs in major league sports is beneficial for local economies, while winning a championship is not.

GOALS: My ideal school is one where I find both a research mentor and co-authors, whether they be within economics or across other disciplines. The teaching load at my current position combined with the job market has not allowed me to achieve my goal of publication this semester. I hope to accomplish that objective in early 2015.

TECHNOLOGY: Aside from using standard statistical software such as Stata, R, and RATS, I have relied heavily on ArcGIS, Tableau, and GoogleVis to make interesting infographics and animations that can reach a greater audience. The next step is to make these data visualizations interactive and accessible. I would like to be a pioneer of such change.

FUTURE: The current problem I am trying to solve involves a drop in the number of non-alcohol related traffic fatalities in the mid 2000’s. Once solved, three other papers will have the appropriate control variables necessary to evaluate their respective natural experiments. The model I have created to control for spillover effects is well suited to investigate participation in Medicare expansion, the role of local and state taxes on vices, and an unlimited number of characteristics linked to health that vary from place to place. The research possibilities are seemingly endless.

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