New colleague: Wayne Geerling

Wayne Geerling spent several years as a celebrated lecturer at La Trobe University before he left Melbourne for America in July 2012. He was looking for a bigger challenge and for a larger, more vibrant economics education community. He spent four years at Pennsylvania State University and two years at the University of Arizona.

“It was a great learning experience working in departments with large teaching specialist programs. The economics department at Penn State and the University of Arizona each had 10-12 teaching specialists,” Wayne says.

“I worked alongside some of the best teaching specialists in the world. Being exposed to different teaching styles in a new environment was exactly what I needed at that point in my career.

“I had been a big fish in a small pond at La Trobe University. During the six years I spent in America, I proved I could compete at the highest level - in a much larger, deeper pond. By the time I left America, I had established a reputation as an internationally renowned teaching specialist. I have been working on a number of economics education projects with academics from a dozen American universities: everything from books to journal articles, through to working as an associate editor, to creating websites to help teach economics.”

With an ageing mum, he always thought he would return, but the timing was far from certain. On a random research visit to Monash in July 2017, he found the Department was creating a role that really suited him and subsequently offered him the job.

“There was no major planning involved. But when a Group of Eight university approaches you, you know it is time to go back.”

Wayne has two main research focuses: economics education and economic history. Economics education is a sub-discipline of teaching and learning which looks at how we teach economics. In a career spanning almost 15 years, he has taught nearly 30,000 students at four universities and won department, faculty, university and national teaching awards. Wayne has developed a reputation for being innovative and interactive in teaching large core classes.

In economic history, he is particularly fascinated by the Nazi period and his projects cover resistance in the Third Reich: people who committed treason and high treason and were arraigned before the People’s Court.

“Nazi court records from the period 1933-1945 are a goldmine for any economist interested in the economics of crime.”

His focus on both economics and history is obvious when you learn more about his background.

Wayne started his undergraduate studies with a Bachelor of Economics at La Trobe University but didn’t really enjoy the first two years of study. Not until he took a modern European history elective outside economics in his third year did this change.

“The lecturer was Bill Murray. He was an old Scottish guy who loved the French Revolution. He would lecture in both English and French. Bill was so passionate about teaching; he would relive the events of the French Revolution with incredible emotion and would often cry. It was weird, but incredibly inspiring. He truly cared about teaching. That has never left me,” he says.

Wayne went on to study more history and nowadays is deeply engaged in both economics and modern history, both of which help shape his teaching style. He sees himself as a solid researcher but an even better teacher.

“Teaching large classes is my comparative advantage. Always has been; I thrive in the environment of speaking in front of a large audience. The large core classes are the lifeblood of any department. It’s more common these days for a department to put their most dynamic teachers in here”, says Wayne.

When Wayne is not working, he has a keen interest in reading, mostly literature and books about the Second World War. He also likes to travel, play chess, watch sports like cricket and soccer and listen to music.

Given his fondness for history, his choice of favourite authors come as little surprise: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, George Orwell and Graham Greene.

“I prefer Russian, German and some English authors from the late 19th and early 20th century. I love reading.”