For Marissa Eckrote, starting a new job meant coming full circle.
After pursuing her doctorate at Michigan State University the past few years, she says it’s gratifying to return to a small, tight-knit campus she knows so well.
“I am so happy to be back in La Crosse and teaching at UWL. I loved my time in East Lansing, but being at a smaller school where I get to know my students is really nice,” explains Eckrote, who is filling in for Mary Hamman while the latter is on sabbatical. (Hamman was recently awarded the inaugural Swenson Baier Engaged Faculty Fellowship.)
“Getting back here was always something that I had in the back of my mind, but I knew the chances of a job opening up when I was looking for a job were going to be slim,” she says. “As soon as the opportunity presented itself, I knew it was what I wanted to do this year.”
Several years ago, Eckrote made a similarly speedy decision to attend UWL.
The native of Plover, Wisconsin, toured a number of large universities that didn’t quite win her over.
She gravitated to UWL in part because of her dad, Thane Eckrote, who graduated from UWL in 1989 and played on the 1985 national championship football team.
“I knew UWL was a special place for him, so I figured it would be worth checking out,” she notes. “I knew almost immediately when I got here that this is where I wanted to go. I loved how compact campus was and that the classes were small, and you weren’t just a number or a face in the crowd.”
Her highlights as an undergraduate included working on research projects in the Mathematics & Statistics Department and presenting that research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in North Carolina.
In 2016, she won the Murphy Award for Academic Excellence, reserved for the university’s top graduating senior.
“It really felt like the ultimate way to end my academic career at UWL,” she says.
As a faculty member, Eckrote’s specialty areas include health and labor economics, with a sub-interest in econometric methods used to conduct empirical research in those areas.
This fall, she is teaching three sections of microeconomics and public policy, along with one section of health economics.
Eckrote is also working on a handful of papers with Hamman, who was one of her biggest mentors during her undergraduate years.
“Even though Mary wasn’t my assigned advisor she took me in and advised me through the entire graduate school application process,” Eckrote says. “She continues to be my go-to person for advice on the profession.”
It’s been a challenging start to her first semester. COVID-19 has once again forced in-person classes online — at least temporarily — and resident students have had to adjust to sheltering in place in their dorms.
Eckrote says her colleagues have been extremely supportive during the transition, as has UWL’s Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. Students, she says, have “been great in adapting to whatever is thrown at us.”
“As difficult as it has been on this side, I can only imagine how difficult it is on the student side,” she says. “I just wanted to let them know that I understand that it is a crazy semester, and that the faculty care about them and want to help them as much as we can.”