CHRISTOPHER BARKER ’20 |STAFF WRITER • Kealoha Widdows, Professor of Economics, will conclude her 30-year career of teaching at Wabash College. She is also the current holder of the John H. Schroeder Interdisciplinary Chair in Economics.
Widdows came to Wabash in 1987. “When it came time for me to graduate from Purdue with my PhD, I applied for a ton of jobs,” Widdows said. “It was my good fortune that there was an opening at Wabash, because that doesn’t happen very often, especially in the Economics department. It was great because it’s local to Lafayette, and a liberal arts college was what I really wanted. I had a liberal arts college experience with similar education models, so I knew it just felt like it would be a good fit.
“And it was. It’s been a fantastic 30 years. Every institution has its ups and downs, but I will always feel very close to this institution and feel like I’m part of the family.”
Widdows has seen a lot of change and improvement come to Wabash in her time here. “When I first came here, there was a great deal of talk and divisiveness among faculty of going co-ed,” She said. “‘shOUT was just a fringe group when I started, and the way we think of our mission has significantly changed. The College has come a long way since then. I think we are doing a good job educating our men, and what we do here benefits our students in the long run. The students believe in the product. How can we mitigate the costs? ”
Dr. Widdows is also involved with Asian Studies at Wabash College. “Asian Studies is off the ground,” She said. “It isn’t big, but I think it’s incredibly important we have it. I wish we could do more; I wish we could do Japanese as well as Chinese. However, when you exclude Asia, you exclude a huge part of the world, and very old, important history is there. The idea that we expose students to that and give them this learning opportunity is great. I’m very proud that we’re about to send Walker Hedgepath to Cambodia to study abroad. We should send as many students abroad as we can, and I strongly believe in this for many reasons.”
Her colleagues and other members of the Wabash family can also see her commitment and support for international studies. “Dr. Widdows is committed to making education more global at the College,” Christie Byun, Associate Professor of Economics, said. “You can learn standard economic theory, and then apply it to other countries. Asia has a unique set of circumstances, and there’s a lot to think about culturally, too. She’s interested in globalization and international trade; it goes toward making our students citizens of the world. This helps our students be better competitors on the workforce. If they understand other countries and their cultures, economies, and more, they’re a better-equipped employee wherever they go.”
“I was very proud and pleased when Kay Widdows was chosen for the John H. Schroeder Chair in Economics,” John C. Schroeder ‘69 said. “I wanted someone who did more than just Economics at Wabash. She’s highly respected in her field, and I’m impressed with her work and with what students have to say about her.”
Widdows will definitely be missed by many of her students, advisees, and colleagues. “Dr. Widdows has been an amazing mentor and advisor for myself and many other Wabash students,” Zackery Carl ‘18 said. “Her passion and energy in the classroom is contagious and her classes never fail to keep all the students engaged.”
“Dr. Widdows is one of my very favorite people and professors at Wabash,” Brady Quackenbush ‘18 said. “She’s a brilliant economist and is well traveled; the combination of the two makes for some unique perspectives in the classroom. She teaches the material in a way that is easy to understand and helps us to apply it to many different situations.”
Widdows also believes in another way where the student body can learn more about Asian culture. “It’s more difficult to have perspective on your own country unless you get an outside view of it and learn what other people think, and you can get some of this by interacting with the international students here,” Widdows said. “I don’t think we learn as much from them as we could. China is a hot topic, and we should talk to our Chinese students on how they view the United States, what issues they think are important, and so on. I hope we find ways to do that in the context of this College and use all the resources we can to learn about the rest of the world and ourselves.”