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Student Spotlight

Economics graduate student honored again for teaching skills

Elisabetta Gentile

The Provost’s office bestowed a 2010-2011 University of Houston Teaching Excellence Award on economics teaching assistant Elisabetta Gentile in April. She previously won the departmental Graduate Student Teaching Excellence award in 2009.

“I try to instill into my students the importance of staying informed and evaluating information critically, so that they can make the best decisions for both themselves and their community,” Gentile said. “I think this is a valuable lesson, regardless of what career path they‘ll choose.”

The latest honor commends Gentile’s work as an instructor of core courses on macro- and micro-economics and creator of a course called “Economics of European Integration.”

“Besides running a very busy research agenda, it is outstanding for a graduate student to teach a few introductory courses and also be able to develop a new advanced course,” wrote Dr. Ruxandra Prodan, the Economics Department undergraduate director, in Gentile’s award nomination letter.

A native of Italy, Gentile came to UH to pursue her doctorate in economics as a 2006 Fulbright Fellow, a former trainee for the European Commission and a former adviser and junior reporting officer for the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations. She drew on her strong background in European economics and policy to develop the advanced course.

“Her goal is to expose students to a set of principles that govern the European Union and train them to think as policy advisors,” Dr. Prodan wrote. One student in the class is now writing an honors thesis on the Euro and the European monetary policy because of the interest he developed in the course.

Gentile earned a laurea (Italy’s equivalent to a master’s degree) in public administration and international institutions economics from Università degli Studi di Siena, Italy. In addition to Italian, she speaks English, French and Spanish.

Gentile’s dissertation topic is Intellectual Property Rights and Cross-Country Technology Adoption: Evidence from Firms in Sub-Saharan Africa.

She’s been able to test drive other research ideas through an internship with Greenpeace Solutions through the Economics for Equity and Environment network.

“I was tasked with developing an economic model to evaluate different policy interventions aimed at incentivizing the deployment of climate-friendly technologies in developing countries,” she wrote about the experience. “This is a particularly relevant issue because technology development and transfer is universally recognized as a key aspect of climate mitigation and adaptation.”

Gentile’s intellectual inquiries, however, are not confined to the impact of global communication or environmental policy on emerging economies. She’s co-authored with Professor Scott Imberman the study,Dressed for Success: Do School Uniforms Improve Student Behavior, Attendance and Achievement?

The study’s conclusion: “uniforms had little impact on student outcomes in elementary grades but provided modest improvements in language scores and attendance rates in middle and high school grades. These effects appear to be concentrated in female students.”

Gentile presented those findings at two conferences – the Association for Education Finance and Policy annual conference and the Southern Economic Association.

“In order to make economics more accessible to my students, I show them plenty of examples of how we use economics all the time to make decisions, so they see how relevant the subject is to their everyday life,” she said.