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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University

The Lenfest Challenge at Work

A Conversation with Professor Linda Hooks

from The Bridge: Fall 2009 issue

Linda Hooks, Darrold and Kay Cannan Term Professor of EconomicsMeet Linda Hooks, the inaugural Darrold and Kay Cannan Term Professor. She has taught economics in the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics since 1993. Her areas of teaching and research are international finance, and money and banking.

Donors Kay Cannan and her late husband Darrold '53 were inspired by the Lenfest Challenge to establish the professorship in 2007. It targets outstanding mid-career professors in the Williams School and rotates to a different professor every few years.

Q: What do you believe are the most important lessons or skills you teach your students?

A: The most important lessons the students learn are about analyzing things-about being thoughtful and critical in a useful way. When they hear a theory or we talk about it in class, I want them to be able to analyze how it could be used, as well as when it would be appropriate not to use it. And I want them to take that out of the classroom with them so that in the business meeting or in the nonprofit organization where they're volunteering, they can make good decisions that will help people move forward.

I hope that students leave here with a sense of new power or new strength, because they have that ability. It's not just about learning a set of facts-it's about a new way of thinking.

Q: We talk a lot about how, at W&L, professors mentor students. Can you tell me about a rewarding experience when you mentored a student?

A: I've been an advisor to Panhellenic Council for a number of years and remember mentoring a young woman who was then president of Panhellenic. She was helping to finish the sorority houses when they were being built. It was a very big job. One of my favorite memories was from a meeting the students had with the administration. I had gotten together with this student and some others and helped them create an Excel spreadsheet showing various sizes of houses and how it would be equitable if we built houses in a certain way. At this meeting we were having with President Elrod, I looked down the table, and every one of the students had pulled out her spreadsheet and was referring to the numbers we had come up with. It was a really fun moment, because they clearly felt like they had something to say, and they were going to say it.

Q: Sometimes people outside of academia are not familiar with the significance of named professorships. Why do you think they are important to Washington and Lee?

A: They give us a way of recognizing what matters most to Washington and Lee-that is, being a teacher who really reaches out to her students, and of course having a very good record of scholarship and being a good citizen of the community.

To give a signal to a faculty member that teaching and close relationships with the students are really what matter-that's the best thing someone can do to support this University. Professorships really confirm all that we're about.

Receiving the Cannan Professorship has been a major milestone in my career. It was very significant to me personally that I received a professorship at this point in my life. I am mid-career, and for someone to say, "You're doing it right, keep doing it," was important.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like for people to know about Washington and Lee?

A: The faculty members here still very much care about their students, want to be a part of their lives and hope the students thrive in this community. The W&L we all know and love is still here. It grows and changes every year, as we all do, but at its heart it's still that wonderful place we all love.