Sara Helms McCarty
Position: Associate Professor of Economics and Brock Scholars Program Coordinator
Teaching at Samford since: 2009
Bonus Fact: McCarty also is a research associate at the Lister Hill Center for Health Policy.
Why do you teach? I teach because I love to learn, and I want to pass on this passion for learning to others. When I think of my time as a student, the teachers and professors who had a profound impact on me are what I most remember. In fact, there are many aspects of my classes that mimic what I learned by watching and learning from masters in the classroom. The moments that make an indelible impact on me are when a student understands something for the first time, or uses critical-thinking skills to expand his or her thinking, or sees something in a subject that I have not considered before.
Why do you teach at Samford? I spent all of my time before Samford at public institutions, so coming to a private Christian university was a big leap of faith (pun intended). I work at Samford because it allows me a freedom that I never before had. For the first time, I could speak openly about the importance of the Gospel and my faith in my life, and how it might impact how we think through economics and policy. Additionally, the small class sizes and personal interactions with the students were what I always envisioned as the best type of setting for me as a professor.
What is one thing your students may not know about you? I was a two-sport athlete — tennis and basketball — at my NCAA Division III liberal arts college, and I was four-time most valuable player on the tennis team.
What is your favorite hobby? Reading is one of my favorite hobbies, though one I have a bit less time for since I got married and became stepmom to three in 2015. There’s a great quote about how getting lost in a book is a way of traveling. Growing up with four siblings, I had an uncanny ability to tune out the noise around me, a skill that helps me even now. Some of my favorite books are the Narnia series, anything by Nevil Shute and some British literature, such as Sherlock Holmes and Jane Eyre.
How did your background prepare you for your current role at Samford? My undergraduate years at a small liberal arts college showed me the incredible impact that professors could have on their students. My professors encouraged and challenged me, and sparked in me the dream to be able to do the same for others. Through graduate school, I enjoyed teaching and began to consider a career in academics. My churches and friends through those years pushed me to consider and remember how the Gospel changes everything, so the opportunity to teach economics at a Christian university is the natural consummation of these experiences.
What is one thing you want your students to know when they graduate from Samford? As an economics professor, I want my students to have information literacy — the ability to critically consider the information presented to them, evaluate how factual it might be and consider whether the source of information might be biased. As a Christian professor, I also want to students to know and consider how their faith and theology impact, or should impact, their choices and lives, fully integrated and not a separate piece.
What is some of the interesting research you are currently doing in your field? In the field of economics, religion was ignored for a long time. Even though, as a Christian, I know how it fundamentally alters so many of my decisions in life, the field did not have a way of addressing it. Religion and economics as a field began to pick up in the 1990s. [Samford professor] Jeremy Thornton and I have spent the last several years considering how religion affects decisions about charitable giving, and how people consider time and money. While our results are not surprising to religious individuals, we find that how you think about religion and God impacts your economic choices.
You have interests in community service, volunteering and philanthropy. Why are these so important in today’s world? The Gospel calls us to live generously. Jesus told his followers to pour themselves out for his sake, and that others should know Christians by their love. In volunteering, you are giving your time for others. In philanthropy, you are giving back to others what the Lord has provided for you. Giving provides a gut check — a reminder that what we have is not because of ourselves, but a gift from God.
ABOUT SAMFORD UNIVERSITY -- Samford University is a premier nationally ranked private university deeply rooted in its Christian mission. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th oldest institution of higher education in the United States. U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 3rd among regional universities in the South. Samford enrolls 5,509 students from 45 states, the District of Columbia and 29 other countries in its 10 academic units: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy, and public health. Samford also fields 17 NCAA Division I teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference.