Business Professor Integrates Real Economic Issues in the Classroom

by Sarah Cushing - Office of Marketing | Dec 03, 2015
Bill Clarkson, Ph.D.
This year, about 150 educators, economists and chosen individuals attended the Hillsdale College Free Market Forum in Omaha, Nebraska. University of Valley Forge (UVF) Professor and Department of Business Chair William Clarkson, Ph.D., was invited to the event for the second time as a result of receiving the Acton Institute Mini-Grant for his Reading, Pennsylvania Poverty Case Study last year, which is to be published in 2016.  

Attending economics forums such as this one provides Clarkson the opportunity to educate his students on current economic issues and ideas. “If I teach my students how to ask questions, teach them how to think for themselves … it might spark someone to think about and research economics a bit more,” he said.

One of the speakers at the forum was Arthur Laffer, Ph.D., who is an American economist who was a member of President Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board during his two presidential terms. Laffer innovated The Laffer Curve, which, according to The Laffer Center website, “is one of the main theoretical constructs of supply-side economics, illustrating the trade-off between tax rates and actual tax revenues.” Clarkson includes Laffer's theories and accomplishments in his macroeconomics class. 

Four years ago, Clarkson began to teach macroeconomics, integrating current and relative economics into his classroom with the Reading, Pennsylvania Poverty Case Study. At the end of 2010, the U.S. Economic Census announced that, through its statistics, Reading was the number one poverty pocket in the country. The result was based on particular statistical factors such as population, level of income, high school dropout rate, suicides and violent crimes. “As a class, we started digging into Reading,” Clarkson said.

The class was made up of business majors and social work majors. Business major students studied what may have caused the poverty by researching businesses that closed down or left the area and whether the lower tax base had impacted the municipality. Social work students researched how those changes affected the community on a personal level. On top of these issues, Clarkson asked, “How do we respond as people of faith?” The students began to study Matthew 24 and 25 to see what God compels Christians to do in response to poverty. Clarkson began to formulate the case study with UVF graduate Sarah Bessette ‘14 as co-author. Bessette graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and with a minor in Intercultural Studies.

A year later, in 2012, Clarkson attended a workshop at Acton University and heard about the PovertyCure series. Clarkson explained, “PovertyCure is an international look at how to solve poverty problems.” PovertyCure is an Acton subdivision that seeks to understand a community and its people in order to properly help them. “We started incorporating some of the PovertyCure information in the Reading Case Study,” Clarkson said. “What’s transpired now is talking with PovertyCure about how their principles translate to domestic cases of poverty.” The result was a $5,000 mini-grant through Acton Institute to explore this topic and write an official case study.  
The Acton Institute Mini-Grant includes two parts: the Reading case study and a template for other professors to use to study a city in poverty near them. The process in the case study will include studying a city’s economic factors: business' tax base and policies for economic improvement, as well as the impact on the population. “It’s all driven through business and economics,” Clarkson said. The case study will also provide potential solutions to the poverty problem in Reading and help researchers do the same for other cities. The case study is scheduled for publication next spring.