After 17 years of teaching at St. Mary’s, economics professor Asif Dowla was recently named holder of the Hilda C. Landers Endowed Chair in the Liberal Arts.
The chair, which was previously held by Lucille Clifton, is given to a faculty member of the college for outstanding achievement both at and outside of the school.
According to students and faculty, Dowla fits that description.
“He’s always in his office and is always willing to chat with students about anything,” said senior Alec Stone. “So devoted is he to teaching that I can only remember him canceling class once – because he had to be in Oslo,
Norway to watch his friend and former professor receive the Peace Prize. He even held class on the day of his flight, leaving for the airport directly from class.”
“Dowla is one of the best teachers in the College because he challenges students to think beyond graphs and models, and to consider the social and moral implications of different policies,” said David Wessler. “He has the unique ability to humanize economic problems.”
Professor Andrew Kozac, chair of the Economics department, also described Dowla as devoted to his students. “One of the secrets to Asif’s success in terms of teaching is that he sees his students for more than being just students,” he said. “He’s got a certain caring for them as individuals. And that care extends farther than what happens to them in the classroom, but also after they leave the classroom.”
Besides his work at the College, Dowla has worked with Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with microfinance, including starting the Grameen Bank.
Dowla’s book about the Grameen bank, The Poor Always Pay Back: The Grameen II Story, has been translated into French, simple and complex Chinese, and Baha Indonesian and is used as a textbook at Duke, Harvard, and Princeton.
Dowla, who describes his reputation among the students as “very demanding,” says that he is humbled by being chosen for the Landers Chair. “For an academic,” he said, “this is the ultimate honor.”