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Dr. James Kurre

Kurre lg

Associate Professor of Economics, Director of the Economic Research Institute of Erie, and Head of the Economics and Business Economics programs

Dr. Kurre was named an Economic Educator of the Year by the Americans for the Competitive Enterprise System, and previously received the Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award for mentoring students in research. He also was previously awarded the Penn State Alumni Teaching Fellow Award, a university-wide award given to only two faculty members per year, and Kurre is the only two-time winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Behrend College Council of Fellows.

Education: Ph.D. and M.A., Economics, both from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan; B.A., Economics, Magna Cum Laude. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio.

What courses do you teach? Econ 2: Introduction to Microeconomics; Econ 302: Intermediate Microeconomic Theory; Econ 397: Econ as a Career; and Econ 430: Regional Economic Analysis.

What can students expect when they take one of your courses? A challenge! Economics is all about decision-making and applies in all aspects of life and business. My courses ask a student to answer the question: “What does this have to do with me?” Students typically learn tools that help them make better decisions in their own lives and careers.

What is your favorite course to teach? I enjoy them all (well, most of the time…), but I think Econ 2 is my favorite because for many students it is the first Econ course they’ve ever taken, and I get to see the lightbulb go on for many of them. If we do it right, they come out with a whole new way of looking at the world, and understanding how the world works.

How would you describe yourself as a teacher? Enthusiastic! That’s probably my biggest asset; I think this Econ stuff is really useful and try to convey that in my classes. And also humorous; for students to understand Econ they first have to be awake in class, so I use humor to keep the students engaged. (Graphs and laughs!)

What do you like best about teaching at Penn State Behrend? Behrend is small enough that I can get to know many of my students. I still keep in touch with students from the very first class I taught here in 1977, as well as many more over the years.

What’s your favorite...

Book? Whatever I’m reading currently. Favorite authors are Neal Stephenson for science fiction (try The Diamond Age), Richard Russo for life in our area of the country (Straight Man is a hilarious version of life at a small college in western PA), and John Grisham’s legal fiction.

Movie?Citizen Kane because it was the first movie my wife Gail and I saw together—in Reed Lecture Hall, as it turns out. Casablanca is a close second, followed by anything by Alfred Hitchcock. And The Lord of the Rings trilogy is in there somewhere, too.

Music/band? Jimmy Buffett, because he’s just a good time all the time. Sometimes you just need to go to the islands, mon!

What are some of your hobbies/pastimes? I’m a performing member of the comedy troupe In All Seriousness. We do live improv comedy (like Whose Line Is It, Anyway?) as well as song parodies, skits, and full dinner shows in various genres like a wedding show, a roaring 20s show, a medieval (with the emphasis on evil) show, and a pirate show (rated Arrrrrr!). It’s about as far from Econ as you can get! Fair warning: sometimes this spills over into my classes. I also golf, and that’s pretty funny too, the way I do it.

What advice can you give students to succeed both in college and in life?

There isn’t just ONE perfect major or career for you; there are many that could work. You need to actively and consciously explore several during college. Find a faculty member you can connect with and sit down with them to discuss your future. Ask their advice and bounce your ideas off them. Give serious thought to different paths you might take, and make a conscious decision to choose one of them and make it work.

Also, challenge yourself! Get outside your comfort zone and try something new. Get involved in extra-curricular activities to meet new and different people.

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