November 21, 2014
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Economy Class

USI professor actively engages students in economics
Dr. Marie Bussing, assistant professor of economics at the University of Southern Indiana.

For decades, college professors had only to navigate through deans and vice presidents to get a stamp of approval. Now, there’s RateMyProfessors.com, a website giving students the opportunity to anonymously promote or pummel their profs.

That brings us to Dr. Marie Bussing, assistant professor of economics at the University of Southern Indiana. Her online reviews reveal a key component of her nature: while her students may not always get excited about economics, Bussing makes it clear that she does. Here’s one review: “She always asks for input, but none of us just LOVE econ like she does.” Here’s another: “She is really stoked about econ.” 

In fact, the Memorial High School and University of Evansville graduate is so “stoked about econ” that she has written eight books on the subject, beginning with “The Young Zillionaire’s Guide to Taxation and Government Spending” in 2000 and up to her most recent publication, in 2012, “Deficit: Why Should I Care?” Energetic and youthful, with a taste for fashion, she doesn’t epitomize the image of a 50-something numbers geek. Yet Bussing gets revved up talking about Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke the way others follow Lady Gaga or LeBron James.

“I’ve always liked to teach,” Bussing says, “and then I really started enjoying economics when I was in graduate school (at Middle Tennessee State University). I’ve always been fascinated with the economy and how money moves the economy and society. The question I always try to keep in mind regarding my students is, ‘How is this going to affect you?’ Economics affect everyone.  One thing I really enjoy is reading what the students are thinking. They had an assignment recently, and many wrote that they are graduating and looking for a job, and they’re really concerned about job prospects. Some are concerned about getting only a half percent on their savings account. Even if economics is not their favorite subject, they at least need to be aware and watch the news. And from what I’m observing, they are.”

Here are some of Bussing’s tips/opinions/forecasts for people of all ages:

On the current state of the economy:
“I think we are in a good place with 2.8 percent GDP (gross domestic product), and I am anticipating upward movement in the economy. It’s certainly not robust, but we have modest economic growth. I’m excited about the new Fed chair (who, at press time, was likely to be Janet Yellen). I’m excited to see Yellen in that position. I think she could recharge the economy. I don’t think we should underestimate what she might do.”

On handling money:
“My advice is just the way I practice: conservative, cautious, and it is always wise to have some money that remains liquid because you never know what can happen. Liquidity is money you can access quickly — checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit.

On the timing of higher interest rates:
“We’re relying on interest rates to move up in 2015 just because those are the projections made by the Fed. I think the projections might shift sooner than we think because we have some strong (economic growth) numbers out there.”

On her biggest economic concerns:
“We have been running trillion dollar deficits, and I think people should know where their money is going. It’s potentially going to be the students I’m teaching or their children or their grandchildren who will be affected the most. To give them a way to frame it, I tell my students that toward the end of my college career, the big news around 1980 was that our debt might top $1 trillion. It has 17 folded since then. If you got a bill for the debt today, it would be roughly $54,000 per person.”

On her ability to predict the economic future:
“I definitely would not say I’m automatically right. I would say I’m a cautious economist. The message I bring is read the news, become educated. Read the source material for yourself. Then, if you want to listen to different viewpoints, that’s fine. But be sure to see the original source when it comes to economic reports because then you can start to make your own decisions more clearly.”

Bussing has been on the faculty at USI since 1991, following two years at Citizens Bank (now Fifth Third) and graduate school at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Between writing eight books and teaching, she has found time to serve on the St. Mary’s Health System Board of Directors and St. Mary’s Foundation, and on the Commerce Bank Board of Directors. She was the former president of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana Inc. and next summer will take over as board chair for the USI Foundation. For many years, she has been one of two people directing the Bussing-Koch Foundation, along with her brother, Bill.

Throughout her career as a teacher, writer, and philanthropist, Bussing has been drawn to young people. Two of her books, “The Young Zillionaire’s Guide to Taxation and Government Spending,” and “Money for Minors: A Student’s Guide to Economics,” were geared toward a young audience. She has plans to write at least two more books — “I feel compelled to write at least 10!” — and possibly enlist one or both of her daughters, Amie and Katie, as co-author of a book focused on personal finance for teens and young adults.

“I get energy from the students,” Bussing says. “I like hearing what’s on their minds. They’re reading the news, they’re cautious, and they’re smart. They are large consumers. They like their cell phones, iPads, iPhones, but what I’ve observed is that they are also concerned about whether Social Security will be there for them, and they would like to see their investments grow more quickly. In fact, in the last several years I have noticed a change in students. Maybe it goes back to the fact that a parent has lost a job or retired early, but they’re much more interested in economics and they’re interested in what’s going on in Congress. I’ve had students ask, ‘What can I do?’ I tell them, ‘Practically speaking, the power you have is in your vote.’”

That doesn’t mean casting a ballot at RateMyProfessors.com. Those votes have already been tallied, and Bussing continues to lead in the race for Most Stoked About Econ.

Marie Bussing’s books may be purchased online at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com. The following books are available through the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library: “100 years of the Federal Reserve: The Central Banking System in the United States of America”; “Deficit: Why Should I Care?”; and “Influential Economists.”

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