Celebrating 2023 Faculty Retirements

Submitted by Madison Girard on

The Department of Economics celebrated the retirements of three faculty members this quarter.  Professors Emeriti Robert Halvorsen, Haideh Salehi-Esfahani, and Michelle Turnovsky have each made a unique impact on our community. We spoke with them to learn more about their time at UW and their favorite memories from Economics. 

Robert Halvorsen 

Robert Halvorsen began teaching at UW in 1972. The courses he most enjoyed teaching were those focused on using economics to improve public policy, including Natural Resource Economics (ECON 435), Economics of the Environment (ECON 436), and Cost-Benefit Analysis (ECON 454). 

When asked about moments of pride regarding our department, he said that he is “most proud of being part of a department that has maintained its excellent reputation for teaching and research over such a long time. This is also what makes it special.” 

In retirement, Robert looks forward to revisiting several places around the world where he has lived. He is currently adding on to his over 50 years in the Department of Economics by teaching as an emeritus faculty member. 

Haideh Salehi-Esfahani 

Haideh Salehi-Esfahani taught at UW from 1990 to 2020 and remained involved as the co-director of the undergraduate program for the 2020-2021 academic year. She taught a wide range of courses, and enjoyed introducing her students to the various economic concepts they focused on. This was especially clear when teaching Introduction to Microeconomics (ECON 200), with its large audience and the relevance that its’ concepts have to the daily lives of students. She also regularly taught International Trade (ECON 471). Haideh is proud to have shared her enthusiasm for the discipline and its’ use for understanding our world, as well as training many teaching assistants on becoming effective teachers. 

When asked about what stands out about UW Economics, she noted that “the faculty in our department are great scholars and teachers, and in addition to that they are thoughtful and caring colleagues and friends. The Economics staff are superbly helpful, great people to work with. I feel lucky and blessed to have worked alongside such nice people for the 30 years of my career at UW.”  

Haideh has been spending her retirement writing literary non-fiction vignettes, as well as traveling. She intends to continue learning and researching on her academic topic of interest, history of institutions and institutional development in the Middle East. 

Michelle Turnovsky 

Michelle Turnovsky began teaching at UW in 1988. At that time, the Department of Economics offered only a Bachelor of Arts (BA). She was at the forefront of creating a new degree, the Bachelor of Science in Economics introduced in 1996, navigating approvals from the department, UW, and the Higher Education Coordinating Board (now the Washington Student Achievement Council) at the state level. The BS degree has grown in popularity, from a handful of students to 42% of the total majors in Economics in spring 2023. Michelle sees this as her most significant contribution to the department.  

Among the various courses Michelle taught, her favorite is Economics of the European Union (ECON 475).  She introduced the course in the early 1990s in cooperation with the European Studies program at the Jackson School of International Studies in which she participated. 

Since their formation in 1989, Michelle has been integral in leading the Economics Undergraduate Board (EUB).  She also revamped the Honors Program.  She is proud of the remarkable students our program has attracted and educated over the years – many of them have been very successful after graduation:  graduate school, exciting careers… She initially met many of these students teaching intermediate-level courses and then went on to mentor them as Honors students and EUB members, her most rewarding experience in the department. 

We are grateful for the impact these three stellar educators have had on our students, faculty, and staff. If you would like to share a fond memory of or well wishes for Michelle, Robert, or Haideh, please email econdept@uw.edu