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Longtime professor takes faculty leadership role

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Will Hausman
was serving as a young economics professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro when he got an intriguing offer in the spring of 1981. Return to his alma mater, Willliam & Mary, and take over as the department’s economic historian. It was Hausman’s dream job and he had served temporarily in that role one year earlier as a visiting professor. The only problem, the job came with a 10 percent pay cut, which the economist said, was essentially 20 percent when you factored inflation.

“I turned it down,” Hausman ’71 remembered recently. “I said ‘No.’ Later that day I went to a meeting and started thinking about it.  I thought ‘You made the dumbest mistake of your life.’ I called back and accepted. Fortunately it wasn’t too late. I haven’t regretted it one bit.”

Nearly three decades later, it is hard to imagine the William & Mary campus without Hausman. Currently serving his second term as chair of the economics department, the longtime professor also took over earlier this year as president of the William & Mary Faculty Assembly. The assembly includes professors from across campus and serves as the elected body charged with advising the College administration on university matters involving the faculty. Serving as the assembly’s president is a role Hausman takes very seriously. He is also known as one member of the faculty who is not afraid to speak candidly about university issues.

“I care about this place,” Hausman said. “I want the administration to consult with faculty on major decisions. I expect faculty to have input in those decisions.”

An important time in the College’s history

Hausman comes to the new leadership post at an important time in the College’s history. Like public universities across the country, William & Mary has been faced with budget challenges of the economic crisis. The College is also in the third year of a strategic planning process that serves as a roadmap for the future of the university. Among the major efforts that will be underway this year as part of that strategic planning process include a review of the curriculum and a campus-wide look at how the university – both administratively and academically --can reduce costs and increase productivity. The assembly figures to play important roles in both.

“Let’s look at the academic side of productivity, certainly,  but I think we also have to look at all productivity,” said Hausman, adding that over the past decade the percentage increase in  total employees at the College has exceeded substantially the percentage increase in faculty or students. “I’m not saying it’s bad that we increased employees, but it’s something we should look at.”

A major challenge moving forward is responding to the budget crisis, which has impacted everyone on campus. Faculty and staff have not seen a pay raise in nearly three years and the College’s public funding from the state continues to decline. When Hausman joined William & Mary faculty in 1981, the Commonwealth provided more than 40 percent of the College’s operating budget. Next year, that figure is expected to be about 12 percent and continue to drop. It has forced the College administration to look hard at a new financial model – one that is less reliant on state funding and more reliant on private sources of revenue.

“Our biggest challenge is coming up with a new financial model,” Hausman said. “The state is not going to go back to funding what it used to in terms of operating expenses. That’s never coming back. So can we really conceive of a new financial model? That is our biggest challenge.”

A lifelong member of the community

Hausman first came to William & Mary as a freshman in 1967. A native of West Virginia, he grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. On one Saturday afternoon as a high-school teenager, Hausman was watching television when a college football scoreboard came across the screen. It included a college he had not heard of before – William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

“I started looking at it and discovered it was a very good school,” he said. “It was also a bargain.”

Hausman said the university is still a good bargain. But there have been many other changes over the past 40-plus years. For example, the drinking age was 18 (for beer and wine) and women were not allowed to have visitors at night in their dorms.

“We actually had quite a lot of parties on campus,” he said.

Hausman also remembers a number of faculty who made an impact on his college career. The list includes the late Bob Berry, a longtime economics professor at the College (“He was so quiet and so calm but he really made economics come alive to a lot of us”); Betty Hageman, who taught honors English (“It was one of the most remarkable classes I had in terms of turning someone into a writer”); and Martin Garrett in economics (“He really is the one who showed me how to do actual research”).

“It was a broad education,” Hausman said. “I didn’t plan to be an economist – it just happened.”

The teacher, scholar and faculty leader

After receiving his Ph.D. from Illinois, Hausman took a job in the economics department at UNC Greensboro. He returned to William & Mary in 1978 for a one-year assignment as a visiting professor in economic history. A year later he heard again from his alma mater.

“It turned out the economic historian never came back … so they made me an offer to come back,” he remembers.

Hausman has never looked back. Since returning to William & Mary nearly 30 years ago, he has become known on campus as a noted historian on the utility industry, a devoted teacher in the classroom, and a committed leader among faculty.

Among his scholarship, Hausman authored a number of articles and book chapters on the electric utility industry and co-authored the 2008 book, Global Electrification: Multinational Enterprise and International Finance in the History of Light and Power, 1878-2007. He served from 2000-2004 as founding editor of Enterprise & Society: The International Journal of Business History and currently serves as associate editor of BusinessHistory.

“I’m really interested in how markets work and how they don’t work,” Hausman said.

He’s also interested in working with William & Mary students, who are, in his opinion “absolutely first-rate.” Hausman said it’s important that the College maintains that  blend of teaching and research that is the hallmark of the William & Mary experience here.

“I do enjoy teaching. There are precious few universities that balance teaching and research as well as we do,” he said. “Both are truly equally weighted. Given our resources I think we’re doing a good job with that balance. I care about maintaining it.”

Faculty, he said, play a significant role in the overall educational experience of a student – and perhaps the most important part of developing lifelong connections with future alumni. The professor wishes the College could do even more individualized instruction.

“The students remember particular faculty members more than anything else,” he said.

Hausman comes to the new leadership position at the Faculty Assembly with plenty of counsel available to him right at home. Hausman’s wife, English Professor Colleen Kennedy, served as president of the Assembly in 2001. “She wanted me to do it,” he said.

Hausman, who has served on the Assembly since 2009, also brings plenty of experience of his own. To date, he has served on nearly 30 faculty committees, including both campus-wide boards and councils and leadership roles within the Faculty of Arts & Sciences. He previously served on the Assembly from 1998-01 and is also in the third year of his second term as economics department chair – his first term was 1992-97.

Add to that a full teaching load and time for scholarship and research, and the weekly work load can appear overwhelming. But the professor said he doesn’t regret the time he devotes to service. As an alumnus, a faculty leader and a scholar, he cares about the future of the university. The best way to impact that future is to be involved, he said.

“I’ve been involved with this institution a long time,” Hausman said. “The bottom line is I’m very loyal to it.”