In the next installment of our Q&A series, meet Dr Duncan Watson…
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and main interests in economics?
“At Christmas I’d only get a tangerine!” A complete fib, but my working class upbringing did ensure a rebellious streak which would always question the mainstream in economics. My university education, and the required reading material, only tattooed that streak more colourfully. As a Fresher, they demanded that I read two particular books: ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’, which I immensely enjoyed, and Keynes’ ‘General Theory’, which I enjoyed a little less. Microeconomic labour economics became my playground.
The first person in my family to go to university, I’ve seen my mother- the most intelligent person I know- take down the contestants on University Challenge. I’m unsurprisingly fully committed to widening participation. A student’s background is irrelevant, the thirst for knowledge everything.
What do you think makes studying Economics at UEA special?
One of my first Professors, who I outrageously believed would care to speak to me outside his office hours, tutted and slammed his door in my face. Such disregard for the student experience is thankfully less common nowadays, but unfortunately still does exist in some dusty ivory towers. Economics at UEA, in contrast, is immensely proud of its student friendly environment. Staff are committed to learning support and maximising the value added from enjoying a university education. Door slamming isn’t an option!
How do you embrace modern technology in your teaching methods?
I’m a tech addict, from creating a lecture storyline through photoshopping to using e-learning as a replacement for expensive clunky textbooks. A love for gadgetry is a grand thing, but this addiction is really about how we embrace the constant testing of new technology to guarantee a more enlightened learning experience.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Economics isn’t about stifling debate. It’s not about informing the student what is right and wrong. I wear my biggest smile when my students embrace this reality and question the relevance of any particular messages given within my lecture.
How do you engage with students both inside and outside of classes?
Smart phones and social media have now made classroom interaction a doddle! However, of the various staff-student events, I’m particularly proud that these aching bones play for The Invincibles: our staff football team who are undefeated against all student opposition. Of course it is crass to gloat. Perhaps a future student cohort will indeed match our combination of power and tiki-taka prowess?
What should students expect from their first year?
They should begin to realise the vibrancy of economic thought; they should know why Economics is such a powerful discipline within the Social Science family; and they should start to fine-tune their critical appraisal prowess, a key ingredient for maximising their long term employability aims.
What are your interests away from academia?
Any music deemed to sound miserable; any horror film of the supernatural ilk; any sport where Ipswich (Pride of Anglia) and/or Wigan shine; any hill walk where I have to question my sanity; and watching my bank balance dwindle from a fun thirsty family.