NDSU professor James Caton challenges students to explore the unfamiliar.
James Caton describes himself as “a teacher who has spent his life in pursuit of understanding.”
That’s a perspective he shares with students in his economics courses, such as Computational Economics, Economic Development, Economics of Entrepreneurship and Intermediate Macroeconomics.
“As a teacher, I see myself as the guide that I would have liked to have had from a young age. My job is to lead students to material that matches their interests and develops their knowledge and skills,” Caton said. “I teach them how to explore the unfamiliar since, at some point, each student must become one's own guide. If I do my job right, students will see that this knowledge is accessible to them.”
Caton challenges his students, requiring several hours of preparation each week outside of class. Weekly assignments, in-class projects and reading activities keep the learning process going.
“I want them to know that I expect their best effort,” Caton said. “Students often surprise themselves as they learn that they can engage difficult content and find that it is often relevant to their own lives and interests.”
During the first week of his 400-level courses, Caton has students fill out a short worksheet or complete a project that indicates what they expect from the course and outlines their plans following graduation. “From the start, I want them to understand that the course they take with me will contribute to their larger plans,” he said. “Throughout these courses, I work with students to develop projects in which they are interested and that, ideally, somehow relate to their future plans.”
Caton’s goal at the end of each semester is to have his students reading and producing content at a greater proficiency than they thought possible.
“My job is to open new worlds to students,” he said. “I want students to think of my course as providing a platform for exploration. This requires much more work from them, but also greatly expands potential for them to create value as they complete the course.
Caton is a faculty fellow with the Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise. He also is a fellow with the American Institute for Economic Research's Sound Money Project.
Caton’s research has appeared in such publications as Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Southern Economic Journal, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation Review of Austrian Economics and Advances in Austrian Economics.
He earned his bachelor’s degree at Humboldt State University, master’s degree in economics from San Jose State University and doctorate in economics from George Mason University.