Department Chair Donna Gilleskie’s interview with retiring Professor David Guilkey, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Economics. David joined the economics department in 1977. He received his PhD from Carolina in 1973.
Thinking back over your nearly half century (46 years) of service as a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, what aspects of your work brought you the most joy?
For graduate students, I really enjoyed going to their graduation, hooding them, and getting a chance to meet and talk to their parents – typically for the first time.
With undergraduates, students, I really enjoyed hearing about their plans after graduation – especially the ones who thought that the material that they learned in econometrics had a direct impact on their getting a job that they were excited about.
Was there anything that you recall as particularly challenging?
The most challenging time was the five years that I spent as department chair. You really have no idea how much work and psychological energy it takes to do the job until you are actually in it.
Was there an epic moment during your career at Carolina that shaped your approach to teaching or research?
Becoming a fellow of the Carolina Population Center allowed me to work with a wide variety of scholars across the university and get involved in funded research in a very large number of countries.
What were the biggest changes you experienced in teaching from the 1970’s to 2023?
What helped me the most in teaching was my research. As I became involved in a very large number of projects that ranged from the evaluation of family planning programs to developing models for forecasting commercial real estate appreciation, I incorporated the data that I gathered for those projects into my lectures. A frequent comment I get on student evaluations is the relevance of what they are learning to solving real world problems.
What was the greatest success or accomplishment in your entire working history?
Working consistently hard through 46 years and continuing to be a good teacher and researcher.
If you had the power to implement something new in the Economics Department, what would it be?
The university seems to want to emphasize undergraduate research but there is little incentive for faculty members to get involved. Clearly, the most important factor in salary increases has to be research productivity if the department is going to retain its top scholars. However, the stipends offered to faculty for working with a student need to be larger – but this increase will dependent on donations to the department.
What advice do you have for students?
Take the quantitatively challenging courses in both Econ and other fields. It will pay off in the long run.