University is supposed to be one of those life changing experiences. You come in a scared ignorant youth and walk out a confident worldly adult — at least that’s what we’d all like to believe. Change is inevitable and despite Hollywood movies where this process happens in the span of a fifteen minute montage, this change is usually more gradual, somewhere on the order of years. However, growing up with popular culture in my head, I’ve always felt that there was one thing missing from my education — the one. The one teacher who changes the way you look at the world. The one teacher who makes you consider possibilities that you’ve only imagined. The one teacher who changes you from an ignorant youth to a confident adult.
I’m sad to say that I haven’t had that experience, although there’s always hope (PhD here I come). However, if there was any professor who came close, it was Larry Smith (link intended for the exclusive use of Larry Smith’s current and former students). Strangely enough (or maybe not at all), he wasn’t an engineering professor; he taught economics. His classes in micro- and macroeconomics (ECON 101/102) are infamous for his animated story telling, in your face lecturing style and surprisingly useful real-world applications of economics. If I had to give any UW student advice, it’s to take his course.
His lectures have mass appeal because of the sheer entertainment value he gives running up and down the aisles, shouting in people’s faces, and stealing snacks from unsuspecting students. The numbers don’t lie — every semester he has the biggest lecture room in DC filled with students sitting up and down the aisles. Besides his obvious entertaining lecturing style, the main reason I like his lectures is that he goes into great length about two topics I find every interesting — success and money.
There are a surprisingly large number of useful things that the education system doesn’t teach you — but Larry Smith does. I did go into university an ignorant youth, I didn’t come out a worldly adult — just a bit less ignorant. And a large part of that was because of his lectures. Maybe I don’t give him enough credit. I think the only thing I can do to show my gratitude is to become one of the “spies”. And if he really does have “spies” everywhere like he claims, it’s a real testament to his abilities as a teacher. Thanks Larry Smith!