Futures and farewells: 3 departing faculty members reflect on their time at U.Va.

Departing faculty talk about their teaching experiences and share plans for next fall

8756e9e8-6757-4ce7-8723-2df9b60eb152.sized-1000x1000 (1) 2

Pictured from left to right, Jennifer Doleac, Mary Middleton and David Edwards

Courtesy University of Virginia


Professor Jennifer Doleac

Batten Prof. Jennifer Doleac joined the University faculty as a professor of economics and public policy in the fall of 2012 for Batten’s graduate public policy program. With her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Williams College and her Ph.D. in Economics from Stanford, she was drawn to the Batten School’s innovative and interdisciplinary nature.

“I was super excited to be part of the Public Policy School,” Doleac said. “It was a new school with a really great faculty.”

Given her professional experience working in the Congressional Budget Office and the Brookings Institute between her undergraduate and her Ph.D., Doleac was initially uncertain if she wanted to teach or work more directly with policy. However, her experience teaching Economics of Public Policy I, Public Economics and Evidence-based Criminal Justice Policy at the Batten School helped cement her passion for teaching and academia.

“It’s a good job,” Doleac said. “I get to meet lots of smart students and study things I’m interested in, so I’m happy to be in the field.”

While at Batten, Doleac founded the Justice Tech Lab which researches the impact of technology on criminal justice. Specifically, Doleac focuses on the economics of crime and discrimination. She is grateful for the policy-focused atmosphere at Batten, which enabled her to pursue this project.

Ben Castleman, an assistant professor of education and public policy at the Batten and Curry Schools, collaborates with Doleac on projects addressing prisoner re-entry outcomes. He will miss her greatly and is excited to see her future contributions to the field.

“Jen brings tremendously high caliber research into the economics of crime,” Castleman said. “I think she is one of the most productive, creative and insightful researchers helping us understand the impacts, sometimes unintended, of various criminal justice policy and how that affects people’s outcomes.”

Castleman emphasizes Doleac’s commitment to her research both inside and outside of academics.

“Jen invests a tremendous amount of time not only doing research but engaging with policy makers, other researchers, to both promote awareness of the insights from her work and to work with others to drive meaningful change,” Castleman said.

Doleac will miss her colleagues and the collaborative atmosphere at Batten, and is grateful for her time at the University.

“[Batten] values being actively engaged in policy work and talking with practitioners and policy makers more than being in a disciplinary department normally would,” Doleac said. “So that’s made me so much more comfortable engaging directly in policy issues and talking to people who just aren’t in the ivory tower.”

She will be teaching economics as a tenured professor this upcoming fall at Texas A&M University and will be continuing the Justice Tech Lab there.

“I am very excited for the next chapter,” Doleac said.

Lecturer Mary Middleton

Commerce lecturer Mary Middleton, who completed her undergraduate degree in the McIntire School, returned to her alma mater to teach finance for a year in 2010 and then again from 2012 until now.

Although she taught large sections, Middleton made connecting with students a priority. She kept her office door open after her classes on Tuesday and Thursdays, ready to talk with students before making her hour long commute home to Richmond.

Fourth-year Commerce student Molly Futrell began coming to Middleton’s office hours and now is a teaching assistant for her managerial accounting class. Originally an English major, Futrell attributes Middleton’s passion for the subject and her students to sparking her interest in accounting.

“I think more so than any professor I’ve had, she genuinely cares about her students,” Futrell said. “She has very high expectations, but she does everything in her power to help make them succeed with the amount of resources she has and how available she makes herself.”

Next year, Managerial Accounting, which is a prerequisite for the Commerce School, we be administered online. Accordingly, Middleton will not be teaching at the University next fall. While Middleton is not concerned for her own sake, she worries students will suffer from the change.

“I am really, desperately sad about this class going online,” Middleton said. “We’ve lost who we are. The [Commerce] School prides itself on its personal relationships between students and faculty. Well, there isn’t going to be that same relationship if it’s online.”

Second-year College student Sydney Peoples is currently taking Middleton’s Introduction to Managerial Accounting class. While she says that Middleton’s Managerial Accounting class is extremely difficult, she emphasizes how Middleton makes sure students understand the material. She also notes Middleton’s mentorship beyond accounting.

“She also does a lot of tips and tricks things for life in general besides just what we are learning in accounting,” Peoples said. “She gives us advice on relationships and college and job interviews and work life and things that are obviously really helpful but that don’t have anything to do with the class.”

Taking her personal teaching style outside of academics, Middleton plans to finish writing a book on life advice and to teach finance in prisons.

“I purposely tried not to fill the space, and I want to take a deep breath and see where God leads me,” Middleton said. “God has always led me where I needed to go. It led me here, and I just sort of look at it as, although I am very sad for the students here, I know for me, God has decided that my time is up and there are other people’s lives that I needed to touch.”

Professor David Edwards

When Computer Science Prof. David Edwards came to the University to complete his second master’s degree in computer science, he did not expect to make teaching his career. However, when a professor in the department retired, Edwards filled the vacancy and became a CS lecturer his first semester of graduate school. 

“I just started teaching here,” Edwards said. “I happened to be in the right place at the right time situation, and I loved it.”

Since Edwards began teaching in the fall of 2012, he has taught mainly computer science introductory courses and currently teaches Software Development Methods and Discrete Mathematics. Because he is responsible for so many students, he is especially grateful for his teaching assistants.

“A handful of the TAs are really passionate about student learning and it’s nice to have somebody to talk to about that passion, and it’s really nice to get their perspective on things because they are currently students,” Edwards said.

Third-year Engineering student Felix Park has been a teaching assistant for Edwards’ Discrete Math class since the fall of 2016. As both a student and teaching assistant, he was struck by Edwards’ caring and knowledgeable teaching style.

“He would refer to Discrete as his baby,” Park said.

Third-year College student Sarah Bland has been a teaching assistant for Edwards for three semesters and notes his patient character whether he is interacting with his own children, other teaching assistants or students.

“He’s an excellent teacher,” Bland said. “I think it’s what he’s meant to do.” 

Next fall, Edwards will be pursuing a doctorate degree in computer science at Virginia Tech and plans to continue teaching. While he will be on rival turf, he will fondly remember Charlottesville as the birthplace of his children and career.

“When my kids were old enough we took them to trick or treating on the Lawn and they had a blast,” Edwards said. “All the students were out there and were interacting with the kids and that will be something I will remember for a while.”

related stories