Vice-President of the Alabama Board of Education, Alabama Educator Hall of Famer, and a career spanning over two decades; Dr. Cynthia McCarty has a love for her calling that few can match.
Born in Auburn, Ala. McCarty attended city schools until her graduation from Auburn University with a Bachelor’s degree in International Trade. From there, she moved to Birmingham, Ala. pursuing an MBA at Samford University then moving to North Carolina to earn a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Moving back to the Yellowhammer State, McCarty began her career in education at Jacksonville State University (JSU) in 1990, where she still works as a Professor of Economics in the College of Commerce and Business Administration.
For the past 20 years McCarty has also served as the Director of JSU’s Center for Business and Free Enterprise Education and Entrepreneurship, providing professional development for K-12 teachers and education students, in the areas of economics, social studies, and personal finance.
Throughout her already impressive career, McCarty has been involved with several organizations outside of her “job.”
McCarty currently serves as president of 3E, an organization that strives to enhance the connections between the business community and area schools; is a member of the Alabama Council for Social Studies and previously served as a Board member of the Alabama Council on Economic Education. She is also a member of the National Business Educators Association and the American Economics Association, according to her website.
She’s a graduate of Leadership Calhoun County, and has taught several sessions of Youth Leadership Calhoun County.
In 2013, McCarty was inducted into the Alabama Educator’s Hall of Fame for her contributions to the field of economics. According to her website, she has authored or co-authored “14 published academic articles and has presented numerous times on the state of Alabama’s economy and economic education in K-12 schools.”
In 2014, McCarty ran unopposed in the November general election as the representative for district six on the Alabama State Board of Education. She held her position until last month when the board elected her as Vice-President. McCarty runs again this year for her seat; unopposed.
McCarty is a woman of true dedication and service to the State of Alabama, and was kind enough to answer some of Alabama Today’s questions about her life, work, and influences.
How have other women influenced your success?
My mother, who has consistently supported and encouraged me to strive for excellence, certainly motivated me to always do my best. Although there are too many to name individually, I would say that colleagues at JSU, educators in District VI, and fellow board members have all taught me a tremendous amount about service and leadership. I continue striving to improve by observing their accomplished leadership skills.
What shaped your desire to work in education?
My desire to work in education comes from a belief that relevant, accessible, and quality education will allow our children to reach their potential and prosper. If I can help improve the quality, relevance, and accessibility of education in Alabama, then I certainly want to do this.
What has been your favorite area of service, and what is your favorite thing about that position?
My favorite work in education is visiting classrooms and observing innovative, effective teachers introduce a new concept to students in such a way that they all “get it.” That moment is both miraculous and inspirational. Thus, my favorite area of service occurs when I can improve policies that allow teachers to provide more quality instruction in the classroom.
Have you read any books that have shaped your perspective on life?
Oh, the list of books I read! Well, I try to read a Biblical passage each morning. I’m also reading a book (for the second time, so that maybe it will stick better) on Christian Leadership, given to me by my predecessor, Dr. Charles Elliott. And I read many books on education, such as Ron Clark’s “Move Your Bus” and Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.” In addition, I have a love of biographies and am currently reading the biographies of the US presidents (I just finished Rutherford B. Hayes) and novels such as “The Guernsey and Potato Peel Pie Society,” which I read when I needed a break from Rutherford. Books inspire and relax me.
What advice would you give to young women who want to work in education?
I would say that educators are the key to the success of our future. Nothing is so important as a caring, effective teacher. That said, education is the most important profession. If we don’t have quality, caring educators, where will our engineers, writers, doctors, inventors, electricians, machinists be in 20 years? How will they learn to read, write, compute, problem-solve? We must nurture and encourage intelligent, caring adults to continue to pursue education as a vital career path. Yes, teaching can be difficult. However, although teaching is sometimes challenging, the opportunities to improve the lives of students are enormous and will benefit generations to come.
How do you spend your (rare) free time?
I spend any free time I can grab by reading books, watching Auburn football and the NCAA basketball tournament, and visiting family and friends.