Believe it or not, Clive Chapple, Senior Instructor in the Vancouver School of Economics, was not always a microeconomics expert. Originally from England, as his characteristic accent instantly reveals, he first completed a bachelor degree in chemical engineering before moving to Canada and shifting career paths. Popular among students for his extremely organized and engaging lectures, he now teaches a wide variety of courses including cost-benefit analysis, environmental economics, and microeconomics at both the introductory and intermediate levels. If you are thinking of trying an Economics course for the first time make sure you get a spot at one of Clive’s classes. He might even convince you to become an economist!
I started teaching when I was a PhD student at Sauder 15 years ago. The aspect I enjoy the most of it is the occasional one to one interactions with students. I like this type of communication because you can spend some quality time with students providing focused and customized help. In a class setting you try to help a broad audience to different levels of understanding and you are always at the wrong level for most people. I enjoy the challenge, other ways I would not be teaching, but if I have to rank what I enjoy the most I would place at the top of the list the one to one explanations. In those moments you can teach individuals at the right level. I enjoy interacting in the classroom a lot as well.
I was not very good at planning. I stumbled into chemical engineering because I was good at Maths, Chemistry and Physics and I was not sure what to do. It turned out to be a good choice fortuitously. I was relatively good at it and I enjoyed it academically. One of the key benefits from that degree, apart from giving me strong analytical tools, was that it opened up many different options. And that is what ultimately led me here. If you had told me while an undergrad student that I would end up as teacher I would not have believed you!
I had never imagined myself as a professor. When I finish my degree I got a job as an engineer in an economic analysis placement. After that I decided to go back to Grad School to do my Masters. I chose biomedical engineering because it allowed me to learn something new and broaden my horizons. After doing my Masters I got interested into environmental engineering and I started working for an engineering consultant. Everything I did during the two years I worked with them was driven by government policy. Although I knew how to do the engineering piece the whole policy part was mysterious to me. Thus I decided to continue on learning new things at a doctorate level at the Sauder School of Business. The field I was most interested in was policy analysis and strategy. It was a very tough transition initially, as I had never taken any Economics courses, not even 101. The real challenge was the shared language that Economists have developed. Concepts like ‘Aggregate demand’ were unknown to me. For the longest time I remember myself thinking: “demand for what?” It was a challenge to begin with but I really enjoyed it. As I begun to understand economic reasoning it really appealed to me. Then, as part of my PhD, I was asked to teach a class for the first time and I enjoyed it a lot. Sometime later the opportunity to teach full time at UBC came up and I decided to dedicate myself entirely to teaching.
Logical reasoning underlies lots of economic analysis. The way of addressing problems, including social issues, is intrinsically appealing to both the analytical and the emotional side of my brain. When I was first exposed to welfare economics, the fact that it gave me a way of thinking through societal problems that I had been exposed to before, such as sensibly developing environmental policy, interested me. Economic analysis gave me a logical framework to approach environmental problems. Part of it was the fact that I thought the environment was an important issue to me and being exposed and doing some work in environmental economics was a way of contributing to it.
Given my background I think social cost benefit analysis and, in particular, environmental economic analysis are two of favorite topics in Economics. Both of them can be directly applied in many other areas. You can have a direct connection in affecting the world.
I have never taught a course I have not enjoyed teaching. I have taught a broad range of microeconomic courses, with the exception of Introductory Macroeconomics. If I had to choose one, however, it would probably be ECON 101 Principles of Microeconomics. This course gives people a first exposure to economic thinking. For a small subset of people you actually change the way they view things and sometimes even the trajectory of their lives. I have had a lot of students coming up to me saying, I was majoring in something else but after your class I have decided to major in Economics. It is very satisfying to see that a way of thinking that appeals to me helps other understand issues happening around them.
Having the opportunity to expose students to an array of new ideas that I find useful or interesting. Fundamentally that’s it! However, I also enjoy the exposure to enthusiastic and generally optimistic young people. It is a great thing, a hope that keeps me young! Change is less difficult when you are younger.
Students’ engagement and enthusiasm. The average level of engagement is certainly higher than in some of the other courses I teach. Since students’ engagement is one of the reasons why I enjoy teaching I can thus say I like teaching BIE students. Generally, they are also very focused.