Robert (Bob) Francis is the kind of guy who inspires those around him – and that in itself, is what makes him one of the most popular faculty members at Shoreline Community College. The postcards that cover his office walls are a testament to the way former students feel about Professor Francis.
Although his main objective in the classroom is to teach students all things economic, the business/finance instructor goes far beyond providing the education outlined in the college catalog. Francis has grabbed the attention of hundreds of students for roughly 24 years (16 of them at Shoreline) and cleverly reeled them in to seek more than just an understanding of economics and its global role.
“The economic perspective that I prefer to work in is called institutional economics; this field examines the institutional (formal and informal rules of human behavior) context within which economic exchanges take place,” Francis said. “For instance, how will the development and expansion of e-commerce (buying and selling stuff over the Internet) change the nature of these exchanges? After all, the mall has evolved into a unique cultural and economic institution where some folks seem to pursue community and happiness.”
As someone who enjoys keeping life interesting by doing new and different things, Francis was one of the first instructors at Shoreline to develop an online course, and he didn’t stop there - he integrated webcasting into his classes. “Much of what I do with my class is to demystify economics,” Francis said. “Regardless of what any of my students do after taking my class, they will be intimately involved in the economy. The more they understand how it works, the more they are able to take control of their own lives.”
Francis encourages active learning, infusing thought-provoking case studies, scenarios and problem-solving opportunities into the curriculum that challenge his students to go beyond a knowledge-based experience. “I like to have students engage the subject rather than listen to me discuss it,” Francis writes on his college Web page. He also believes that even though learning should be taken seriously, “there is no reason not to make it fun.” His students find themselves stranded on islands, being appointed widget czars, arranging production assignments between Fred, Barney and Wilma or analyzing trade between Batman and Robin.
He also teaches international studies and is an occasional adjunct faculty member at University of Washington-Bothell and Seattle University. He took on some administrative duties in 2006 as the Assistant Division Chair of the Intra-American Studies/Social Sciences Division.
Before moving to the Shoreline area, Francis and his family lived in California, a place he references as “that much maligned place,” where he made a living as a craftsman (potter), a logger (using draft horses) and a farmer (growing apples, vegetables and hay). Prior to that 15 year hiatus from the classroom, Francis taught at De Anza Community College, in Cupertino, CA.
Francis earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from San Jose State University, where he specialized in Economic History and Comparative Economic Systems; his thesis was on the role of economic aid in the economic development of Israel.
In 2003, he was named an Outstanding International Educator at Shoreline and he received an Outstanding Faculty Award in 1999. Francis was also awarded an ASUWB Teaching Award from the University of Washington, Bothell in 2002. He has been a member of the Advisory Panel for Seattle University’s Economics Department since 2006.
The congenial Francis says he is grateful he ended up at Shoreline. “I really like teaching at Shoreline. I find the students very engaging and have come to really appreciate my academic colleagues; almost every one of them is deeply dedicated to their work. Finally, the staff I work with are doing their best to serve students despite mountains of work.”
Francis enjoys hiking, white water rafting (he rowed the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with his wife a few years ago) and basic carpentry. He can often be found with a hammer in his hand, remodeling his home – he has been known to hand-split a spruce log then transform it into furniture with hand tools. If he’s not on a home project, you might find him at a coffee shop catching up with former students taking the opportunity to chew the fat with their favorite instructor.