Women in Research
Economist Terry von Ende
During Spring 2020, Texas Tech celebrates women faculty who exemplify excellence in research, scholarship, creative activity, teaching, and mentoring.
In the question-and-answer session that follows, von Ende shares the basics of her success.
What inspired you to work in your field/area of expertise?
My main field is economics, specifically microeconomic theory. I have always loved mathematics and when I was in high school, it was suggested to me that economics is very mathematical and that I might like it as a discipline, instead of pure math. That advice inspired me to take my first economics course in my first semester of college and I never looked back. I had an excellent instructor for that course, whose teaching style suggested the many possibilities beyond that course. The tools learned when studying economics are inherently useful to tackle economic problems of course, but the tools—particularly strategic thinking—are also inherently useful in virtually every aspect of life. Consequently, I believe that every student benefits from taking economics—and retains the basic approach taken by economists—even if they don't always realize it.
Who inspired you to pursue academia?
I think my inspiration first came from my parents who both taught at the college level, though they were both in fine arts. I grew up attending university functions and recitals, and so it was a natural extension for me to remain in a university environment for as long as I could. This eventually meant pursuing my own Ph.D. and becoming an academic as well. My professors also reinforced this calling, as they encouraged me at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I learned a little bit and was inspired by all of them, even the ones that didn't seem that inspirational at the time. My first mentor as a graduate TA (Thomas Weiss) also became my dissertation advisor and he was probably the most influential because he most affected my teaching and my research.
As an economist, there are plenty of alternatives to academia, but I really did not seriously consider these possibilities. I truly love the university community with the energy and opportunities that come with the environment—both in teaching and in research—as much now as when I started my academic career.
What would you tell your female students interested in pursuing an academic career?
One of the biggest issues in economics is that female economists remain a significant minority in academics, and advancement in academics is also at a much lower level than for male counterparts. For much of my time as a graduate student, there was not even a female faculty member in my department and there was only one other female student in my cohort. This issue still remains, even though perhaps not to the extreme extent I experienced. For that reason, I believe is it crucial in economics to attend professional conferences where women present, even when the topic might not otherwise appeal. And, of course, at the end of the session, meet the panelists and make contacts that will be maintained in the future. After my first conference presentation, I was eating lunch alone, when one of the leading women in one of my sub-fields asked if she could sit down and join me. She was so gracious with her time and gave me such wonderful advice, that it gave me both a role model that I had not had and a sense of belonging that has stayed with me until now.