WCU names first Gimelstob-Landry Professor in Regional Economic Development

Angela K. Dills, associate professor of economics at Providence College in Rhode Island and associate director of the college’s Center for Teaching Excellence, has been named the inaugural Gimelstob-Landry Distinguished Professor in Regional Economic Development at Western Carolina University.

Angela Dills

Angela Dills

The appointment of Dills, which is effective Aug. 1, was approved by the WCU Board of Trustees during its quarterly meeting Friday, June 3.

The Gimelstob-Landry Distinguished Professorship, endowed at $500,000, was established through a gift of $250,000 from Florida real estate executives Herbert Gimelstob and Laurence D. Landry. Those dollars were combined with matching funds through a state program initiated by the General Assembly to encourage private support of public institutions of higher education in North Carolina.

The professorship is designed to address core issues in education and regional economic policy development for Western North Carolina, said Darrell Parker, dean of the WCU College of Business.

“We are pleased that Dr. Dills is coming to WCU. She will provide a new dimension to our ability to understand and contribute to economic development in Western North Carolina and across the state,” said Parker. “She has the expertise to help Western Carolina in its role as a key leader in regional and community development efforts for the mountain region that this university was founded to serve.”

A member of the economics faculty at Providence College since 2010, Dills focuses her research on the areas of public economics and on economic issues related to education, labor, crime and health.

She is a member of the editorial board of the Eastern Economic Journal and the Economics of Education Review. She has taught previously at Wellesley College, Mercer University and Clemson University.

Dills said she was drawn to the position by WCU’s commitment to its students and to helping meet the needs of the people of Western North Carolina and surrounding states.

“I’m excited to work at an institution that engages with its community members and creates partnerships between students, alumni and community stake holders. As the Gimelstob-Landry Distinguished Professor, I seek to build on this foundation by developing relationships with policy makers, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers who have questions and potential answers on how to further enhance the quality of life in Western North Carolina. These questions will serve as the basis for undergraduate research projects that will deliver useful knowledge for decision-makers while also providing real, hands-on research experiences for students,” Dills said.

“Much of my research is in education policy, and my first objective is to learn more about the educational challenges specific to rural areas of the country. I am eager to work with local education leaders to continue to improve the educational options in the region and to encourage local graduates to remain in the area,” she said.

She is the daughter of WCU alumni Gary and Nancilee Brown Dills, who live in Otto.

Dills has conducted research into a variety of issues in elementary, secondary and postsecondary education. She has studied the potential benefits of college quality, the role of class time on academic performance, high-stakes testing, peer effects, teacher quality, class size, recess and physical education, and Catholic schools. Her work has been published in a variety of journals, including Economic Inquiry, Journal of Health Economics, Economics of Education Review, Education Finance and Policy, Education Economics and Economic Letters.

Dills will be a faculty member in WCU’s School of Economics, Management and Project Management.

“In addition to an excellence in research, Dr. Dills brings a passion for teaching and student learning,” said Hollye Moss, director of the school. “She has a record of engaging undergraduate students in research that will be a tremendous asset to our students.”

Dills holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and Spanish from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree in political economy from Boston University and a doctorate in economics, also from Boston University.