Situated in room 114 of the Kaneff building, hardworking students and TAs from Dr. Lee Bailey’s ECO100 class work together in the help centre outside Bailey’s office. The students receive homework help, extra practice for tests, and prepare for an early Exam Jam, as Bailey goes around the room and talks to students.
Bailey has recently been selected as one of the 50 faces for 50 Faces, which is a campaign to celebrate UTM’s 50-year anniversary. Individuals are selected to join the 50 Faces campaign if they influenced or have been influenced by UTM over the past 50 years. In Bailey’s case, he continues to influence the economics program at UTM, pushing his students to their highest potential and making a difference at UTM.
The Medium sat down with Bailey to discuss his career, how he became a professor, and how he came to UTM.
The Medium: Where did you study for your undergraduate degree?
Lee Bailey: I completed my undergraduate in economics at Western University.
TM: Why the interest in economics?
LB: Process of elimination [laughs]. I didn’t like accounting. At Western, I was at the Ivey Business School. The Ivey school requires you to take a lot of accounting courses. I took two accounting courses but disliked both. I decided to specialize in economics.
TM: After you completed your undergraduate degree, what higher education did you pursue? Did you have any specific careers in mind?
LB: I had no intention of becoming a professor. In economics, you need a Master’s degree to become an economist. My plan was to do an eight-month Master’s degree in 1987. I enjoyed my Master’s degree so much that I started to work as a teaching assistant. I stayed into the Ph.D. program, though I never finished it. My plan was to come to U of T and stay eight months. That was 30 years ago.
TM: What has your experience been at teaching at U of T?
LB: I really liked U of T the moment I arrived. I loved teaching, though I had not taught before. Doing tutorials during my first year hooked me. U of T gave me many opportunities to teach and engage in the classroom setting. I enjoy teaching, but I do not like the research option. Research and teaching are very different fields. I was grateful that I got to be in the classroom most the time.
TM: What do you like most about U of T?
LB: U of T to me is excellence. Teaching here is a real privilege. U of T is a Division 1 research school. It is held to the same standard as a Harvard, MIT, etc. When you teach at a research institution, we are provided with some of the best resources to complete tasks. I can hire 32 second-year to fourth-year students to be involved in teaching the first-year courses as TAs. Most schools have zero. With the new infrastructure, I can run tutorials where almost 1,000 students are taking tutorials simultaneously. The leadership here is admirable. We have smart administrators that spend the budget effectively and help to support the students. I work with a wonderful team of people that I can trust.
TM: What other places are you involved in on campus?
LB: I do a lot of committee work [such as with] Campus Council, Campus Affairs, Foods Service Advisory and, the Registrar’s Office. I was the professor involved in designing the Instructional Building. I was also involved with the redesign of Kaneff.
Currently, we are talking about redesigning the food court. So, as your hair gets gray, you get on a lot of committees.
TM: How many courses have you taught at U of T?
LB: Typically, a professor teaches about 2.5 credits a year. I’m coming close to 200 now. All my classes have been first-year and second-year courses in economics. The first year is 350 students. The second-year class is 150 students.
TM: What courses you have taught at UTM?
LB: In Economics, we have one first-year course and three second-year courses: ECO100, ECO200, ECO202, and ECO220. I’ve taught all four. The second-year courses are fun to teach, because I get to try new things with the classroom setting. A lot of my classes are in the Active Learning Classrooms. When I taught ECO220 (Economic Statistics), in the summer, I changed the course and I made it Excel-based. I would have activities that the students would do to verify that they understood what we did. ECO202 is Macroeconomics, so that’s the study of the global economy. The active learning class has 12 tables, and each table has a flag above it. I could ask an economics question to 12 different groups that had 12 different countries. [So that was] ECO202 country-based active learning.
The other course we teach is ECO200. I’m re-designing the summer version of this course, and it will feature board games. Students will work with their teammates to play an economics board game. Then, they can replay their knowledge of economics. Students must document their decisions. That is just in design right now. My second-year courses are smaller.
TM: I know that most first-year students struggle with ECO100. How is it teaching that course?
LB: The biggest challenge is ECO100. I teach less than half the students in the first-year class, but the graduating class are mostly my students. So, if you talk to people about the course, they will say it’s tough, but the class prepared them for future courses.
I have high standards. High standards mean that students must transition accordingly. They must go from high school to a life where you work 30 or 40 hours a week. The high standards are for me as well. I spend a lot of time planning my courses. All course content is ready for September. I’m always in class half an hour early, five days a week.
TM: What resources for ECO11 have helped students excel in this course?
LB: Right now, we are doing Exam Jam. We give practice worksheets to go through with TAs. If students study now, their exams will be strong. One of the things that works with ECO100 is to hire undergraduate students as TAs. When I was a TA, no TA wanted to be assigned to UTM because of the long commute. In 2002, they eliminated grade 13, so there were twice as many students for ECO100, but the number of graduates didn’t change the shortage of TAs. These TA positions make it easily accessible for TAs to come to work and gives them strong references for future work.
TM: How do you find your teaching style changes when working with students?
LB: Teaching ECO100 is a hard job. But who wants an easy job? A lot of first-year students only see their professor in the classroom. If it is a well-organized class with an agenda to follow, the professor needs to be business-like. If the student only sees the professor in the classroom being formal and strict, then that’s the image they have. A lot of students feel I am different in second-year courses. A professional teacher adjusts their behaviour to their environment. I will be different with a second-year course, and I will also be different with my 32 TAs. I adjust style for the task at end.
ECO100 is an accredited course. If students want to be an actuary or financial analyst, they need this course. The curriculum is dictated by professional organizations. ECO100 needs to meet professional standards, and that is what we will teach these students to do.