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Economic Resource Center has become unofficial hub of the econ department

Harry Heyburn and Emma Nix discuss a project in the ERC. 


Paige Steimel figures she spends about as much time inside the Economic Resource Center as anybody on the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus.

Sure, there are scheduled times on Monday and Wednesday evenings when she’s tasked with manning the tutoring desk, ready to help other students make sense of an assignment should they request it.

But there’s a good chance the sophomore economics major will be there anyway, parked in front of one of the computers or kicking back on a couch, when she’s not on the clock. It’s the place she naturally finds herself drifting toward in between classes or before she leaves campus to head home at night.

“It’s a good place to be,” Steimel said. “It’s quiet. I have friends that show up. There are computers, so I can do my work. The tutors are there if I need help from them.”

She’s not alone.

“It’s really the hub of the econ department,” junior Meagan Burwell said. “I’m in there a lot as a tutor, but I also hang out in there often. People in all majors but especially econ majors go in there to work together on problem sets, use the whiteboards and work stuff out.”

That’s precisely how the faculty in the Department of Economics wants it.

The dedicated space in Room 452 of the Social Science and Business Building – conveniently just across the hall from the department office – predates the arrival of current ERC Manager and Professor Michael Allison in the mid-1980s.

It has undergone significant changes in its more than 30 years of existence, starting as a single classroom-sized space with a few tables for tutoring.

A National Science Foundation grant in the early 1990s allowed for the installation of a few computers and a server so the department could incorporate the technology into the curriculum.

Later on, the department reached an agreement with UMSL’s Information Technology Services to make it a full-fledged computer lab, and the removal of a wall allowed it to double its capacity.

Two years ago, it got a few updates with fresh paint, new carpet and new furniture.

Behind the tutoring desk are a mini-fridge and microwave that give students access to two more things they might need.

“We’re largely a commuter campus, so students can’t just go back to their dorms,” Allison said. “That’s not the way things work here, so it’s useful to give students a place to hang out, work together and study together.”

When ITS first transformed it into a computer lab, the economics faculty insisted it keep some tables to allow students space to sit together and talk about assignments or share ideas.

At the top of the dry erase board, in what might as well be permanent red marker, it reads: “THIS IS NOT A QUIET LAB!!!”

Allison is happy whenever he drops in to find students working through problems together, either at the board or one of the tables. 

Read more in UMSL Daily

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Campus: UMSL
Key words: St. Louis Campus,
County: St._louis_city

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