School of Economic Sciences names first female director

New director hopes to improve representation of women in faculty and STEM



Jill J. McCluskey was announced as the new Director of the School of Economic Sciences, set to replace current Director Alan Love when the Fall semester begins.

JAKOB THORINGTON, Evergreen reporter

The WSU School of Economic Sciences (SES) announced Jill McCluskey as the first female director for the school, set to begin her duties in the fall.

McCluskey has been the associate director at the school since 2015. She will replace current director Alan Love on August 16.

“I’m excited for the challenge and looking forward to building on past successes of the school,” she said.

Those challenges involve new partnerships in the state and expanding the school’s presence on the west side of the state, she said.

As the first woman to direct of the school, McCluskey said she wants to give a positive model for women aspiring to have leadership opportunities in STEM.

“It feels great,” she said. “I think it’s important to be an example that women can do a job like this and do it well.”

Love is stepping down after spending eight years as director of SES. He said he’ll return to the faculty and continue to work as a professor at the school.

“It’s very natural that she becomes the director,” he said.  “She’s been a great associate director at this school for a number of years now.”

A single term for director of SES lasts four years. In her four years, McCluskey said she hopes to build faculty, support acquisition of grants and push for research to be published in top journals.

Another area McCluskey said she’d like to improve in is the representation of women as faculty at SES and in STEM at WSU.

“Women are nationally and internationally underrepresented in economics and agriculture economics below 20 percent in faculty nationally,” she said. “At the School of Economic Sciences, we’re better relative to the national numbers but we’re still low.”

She said she plans to improve those numbers by recruiting outstanding women in the faculty and encouraging female graduate students because they’re the key to future success.

The success of her doctorate students is one of her proudest accomplishments, she said. She’s been an adviser for 37 students working for their doctorate degrees.

“I’ve seen them become professors at other universities and be very successful in business as economists,” she said. “It’s amazing to see the work you put into someone result in great success.”

Some of her research focused on the representation of women in STEM at WSU. That work led to her winning the WSU Association for Faculty Women’s Samuel H. Smith Leadership Award in 2018.

She said university policies like spousal and partner accommodation programs can help with the low representation.

“Women are much more likely to be partnered with another academic in STEM faculty,” she said. “To hire women, you often need to make sure that both members of the couple have a job.”

Additionally, she said WSU is doing well in having high-quality on-campus childcare, which supports the representation of women in STEM.

McCluskey said she’s also excited about her research using socioeconomic data to predict where listeria, a food contaminant, might occur in grocery stores. One of her ongoing projects looks at consumer preferences for milk products and how they affect the grocery and dairy industries.

“It’s this idea of an anti-bandwagon,” she said. “If too many people are drinking organic dairy, then anti-bandwagoners will want to have something like almond or soymilk.”

Love said he has complete confidence in McCluskey, as an associate director and for when she starts her tenure as director.

“She’s a solid academic with incredible achievements in respect toward her research and leadership,” he said.