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Lake Forest College Staff Spotlight: Carolyn Tuttle

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Over the course of the school year, we will get to know some of the students and staff at Lake Forest College. Meet Carolyn Tuttle, Betty Jane Schultz Hollender Professor of Economics
 Chair, Latin American Studies Program
Director, Border Studies Program.

How long have you been at Lake Forest College? How did you end up there?

This is my 30th year at the College. I started in 1983 as a recent graduate of Northwestern University’s doctorate program in Economics. I was married at the time and my husband worked at Harris Bank so I only looked locally for a teaching position. I applied to every school within 60 miles of Evanston (25 colleges and universities) and got three job offers. On the day I was going to sign a contract with Loyola University, the chair of the Economics Department, Bill Moskoff, called and asked if I would interview for a position here. I requested an extension on my contract for Loyola and interviewed the next day at Lake Forest College. That evening Dean of Faculty, Bailey Donnally, called and offered me the job. I liked the people I met; I thought the College was beautiful and I was impressed with the students. I accepted the job and started in the fall of 1983.

What is your academic area of focus and what makes it interesting?

I have two academic areas of focus — child labor and border studies. I believe each is interesting because they involve examining labor markets and in particular, workers (women and children) who are exploited by their employers during the period of the country’s industrialization. My research began with the examination of child labor during the British Industrial Revolution. I was shocked to read in the testimonies of the British children employed in the textile mills that they worked twelve hours a day, six days a week and were given only two breaks. In addition, they were often beaten by their supervisors if they worked slowly, talked, or fell asleep. This research culminated in my first book, Hard at Work in Factories and Mines: The Economics of Child Labor During the British Industrial Revolution (Westview Press, 1999). My current research project examines the extent of child labor in developing countries in the 21st century. I am currently documenting the employment and working conditions of child labor in Latin America. I have discovered that history seems to repeat itself as a country develops on the backs of the most vulnerable members of society, women and children. 

My other area of research examines the women who work in the factories (called maquiladoras) along the U.S.-Mexican border. Initially, I thought I would find child labor employed in the maquiladoras because the assembly line work required very little skill and resembled the textile mills of nineteenth century Britain. I discovered that the workforce of the maquiladoras is primarily women whose working conditions are surprisingly similar to the textile mills in Great Britain. While living in Nogales, Sonora I collected 620 surveys from the women working in the maquiladoras. I hired five Mexican women to go house-to-house and interview the women about their family, their working conditions, and their living conditions. I found that the women are exploited (12 hour days, mandatory unpaid overtime, required pregnancy tests) and the factories are sweatshops (breaking at least two Mexican labor laws). This research was recently published in the book, Mexican Women in American Factories: free trade and exploitation on the border (University of Texas Press, 2012). The topic is relevant since NAFTA expanded the maquiladora industry and the majority of the factories are operated by American companies.

What do you like best about working at Lake Forest College?

I love the students!

What is your favorite Lake Forest College experience or memory?

My favorite Lake Forest College experience occurred when I brought Anita Hill to campus in 1996 to talk about sexual harassment. She spoke to a packed crowd in the old gym for an hour and answered questions from the audience. I admired her because she was willing to stand up and speak the ugly truth about what happened to her while working with Clarence Thomas in the EEOC. Although he was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice because few believed her testimony, her courage and tenacity was inspiring.

My other favorite Lake Forest College memory occurred the year we had a major snow storm and I couldn’t get my car out of my driveway. Determined to get to school (of course classes were not cancelled), I bundled up, put on my cross country skis and skied to the Main Street Metra in Evanston. The Metra conductor did not want to let me on the train with my skis but I insisted I must get to my students for class. Reluctantly, he let me on, and once the train arrived in Lake Forest, I put my skis back on and skied to the College. To my surprise, my students didn’t appreciate my determination to get to campus and were hoping class would be cancelled!

Where is your favorite place on Lake Forest College's campus?

My favorite place on campus is my office, Young Hall 420. My second favorite place is Buchanan.

What advice would you give someone who is considering Lake Forest College to continue their education?

Lake Forest College is the right place for a person who is serious about their education and has high aspirations for their future. At Lake Forest College you learn to read actively, write well, think critically and problem solve – skills that will pay off in any career you choose. Professors at Lake Forest College will push you to reach your potential and will offer you opportunities to work with them closely on your own research interests (independent studies and senior theses).

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