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April 20, 2014 - 11:28pm

Sweetland visits Econ class


Economics students put aside their graph packs and calculators Friday to hear from an alum who has spent decades putting his University economics degree to work.

John Sweetland, who is a frequent donor to the University and has served on the Dean’s Advisory Committee since 1995, spoke to students in the Econ 108 section “Economics at Work.” The one-credit course, which hosts a different guest speaker every class, is taught by Janet Gerson, a senior lecturer in the Department of Economics.

Gerson said the class illustrates to students how economics can be used in a variety of career paths.

“Students can learn what people do when they graduate with an economics major,” Gerson said. “It enriches your education in a different way. It’s learning about life instead of taking tests and learning from a book.”

Sweetland’s wife is the namesake of the Gayle Morris Sweetland Center for Writing, a facility housed in North Quadrangle Residence Hall that he donated $5 million to fund. Since he left the University in 1959 with a degree in economics, Sweetland has spent decades in the cement industry in various capacities.

Sweetland taught students the importance of seeing opportunities and knowing when to take advantage of them, Gerson said.

“You’ve got to be willing to make it happen,” she said. “It’s not about things falling in your lap easily, it’s about being smart, seeing opportunities, and then really putting in the work to make it happen.”

Sweetland also spoke of the importance of engaging with alumni. Gerson said she mostly sees freshmen in Econ 108, but interaction with University graduates in the course would be beneficial to students of any year or major.

“When Sweetland was an undergraduate at Michigan, he wished he’d had the opportunity to engage in this way with alumni,” Gerson said. “He’s been a really active and enthusiastic supporter of this class.”