Dr. Brooke Conaway earns Felton Jenkins Jr. Hall of Fame Faculty Award

Dr. Brooke Conaway earns Felton Jenkins Jr. Hall of Fame Faculty Award

I nnovative. Tough. Approachable. Passionate.
 
In her nomination, these were the words students and colleagues used to describe Dr. Brooke Conaway, associate professor of economics, and 2022 recipient of the University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents Felton Jenkins Jr. Hall of Fame Faculty Award. 

Conaway is the fourth Georgia College professor in five years and the second in her department to earn this award. At Georgia College for the last 12 years, she also received the Georgia College Excellence in Teaching Award in 2021.

Dr. Brooke Conaway speaks at December 2021 Commencement.
Dr. Brooke Conaway speaks at December 2021 Commencement.

“Teaching is my favorite thing, but the interaction you get with students, the lightbulb moments—that’s wonderful,” she said. “Working with amazing students and seeing them do something I don’t think I could’ve done at their age, that’s the best part of the job.”

She doesn’t stop at dedication to her profession. Conaway is working to reshape the typical perception of the field of economics, one student at a time. 

Dr. Chris Clark, professor of economics and colleague of Conaway for the last 10 years, said those working in the field of economics are typically angry “jerks,” and men. 

“The fact that economics is viewed as a tough field, where faculty and professors are not always interested in engaging students, she differentiates us in that way,” he said. “And women are not common in economics, so to have a woman in the department that’s not only in the field, but arguably the best teacher in the state is impressive.”

“It means a lot to us to have somebody who can signal to everybody else that we are interested in teaching, and you can be a woman and come into the field of economics and get a Ph.D,” Clark said.

Conaway challenged that view of economics in her former student Julia Fox, ’16. She previously considered economics as something she hated, but after attending Conaway’s classes, Fox went on to minor in economics and uses what she learned in her career. 

“I came in to her class with a lot of strong beliefs as an 18-year-old,” Fox said. “She challenged those in a way that didn’t make me feel bad. But she made me think critically about preconceived notions I had, and how to make better policy.”
It was also important to me to see a young, vibrant woman in economics,” she said. “It can appear as a really inaccessible field, and she made it seem accessible.
– Julia Fox, '16

“It was also important to me to see a young, vibrant woman in economics,” she said. “It can appear as a really inaccessible field, and she made it seem accessible."

Her students’ anecdotes are supported by the numbers too. According to her nomination packet, Georgia College has increased its percentage of women earning undergraduate degrees in economics by five-to-10 points above the national average in the last three years.

But to earn this prestigious award, Conaway has reached beyond transforming student views of economics. She’s changed their lives.

“I enjoyed the way Dr. Conaway seemed to value robust, in-class, back and forth with students,” said David Hale, ’20, a former student of Conaway. “She was not simply a ‘lecture and go home’ professor. One got the sense that she truly cherished educating young minds, and viewed those minds as capable of helping her grow, as well.”

Another student and Conaway’s current Supplemental Instructor (SI), junior economics and finance double major Matthew Meyer credits his path to Conaway. 

“She makes me feel like I’m a part of the process, and I don’t feel left out. It really makes me feel special,” he said. “Even when I’m graduated, 50 years down the road, I will always remember Dr. Conaway as my favorite professor. She’s the reason I got into doing what I love and found my passion.”

But to Conaway, far from changing the path of students’ lives, she just wants to be the best professor she can be. 

“The fact that my research surrounds teaching is not an accident, because teaching is what I love best,” Conaway said. “I guess I’ve just been trying to get better at it over the years. It’s stuff I would’ve done anyway, not to win awards, but what I wanted to do to be a better professor.”
Dr. Brooke Conaway innovates away from a "chalk and talk" style of teaching.
Dr. Brooke Conaway innovates away from a "chalk and talk" style of teaching.