Andrew Wrobel always knew he wanted to be a teacher, but the uncertainty of a teacher’s salary steered him instead to a career in economics before he eventually found his way to the front of the classroom at MassBay Community College.
The students in his personal finance and macro- and micro-economics classes are lucky he decided to switch gears, and they now enjoy the benefits of his wisdom gleaned from years of work on Wall Street. He also provides his classes with practical counsel of how to pay off six-figure educational loans, like he had to do.
“What I bring to my classes are great, real-life analogies and examples,” Andy says.
He shares with his students significant historical financial events, when and how they occurred, their outcomes, and their roles in shaping finances and economics.
“I was there for the dotcom boom, the introduction of voice recognition, and the financial crisis of the early 2000’s. I have the experience to draw on,” he said. “I share real world examples and use the power of stories.”
Wrobel says the fact that he’s a self-described “history and news junkie” adds another dimension to his classes. “A big part of economics is tied to history and the current news cycle,” he says. “For example, why did we pass the CARES Act? Who received PPP (Personal Payroll Protection)? I make the classes very real.”
Like so many of the students who sit before him, Wrobel is a first-generation college student. He understands these students’ unusual challenges, from financing school to navigating college nomenclature.
Born in Oklahoma and raised in Chicago, the son of a janitor and a customer service representative, Wrobel attended the University of Chicago and earned both a Bachelor of Arts in economics, math, and statistics and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in finance and corporate policy. He spent one undergraduate summer working in the trust department of American National Bank where, in addition to running statistical models, he learned the business of business, including corporate dress code and meeting etiquette.
While earning his MBA, he worked at a small real estate investment firm, then moved on to a multinational company, Accenture, and eventually to Fidelity Investments, which brought him to New England. For 16 years, he climbed the Fidelity ladder, relocating from their Boston office to their Providence office.
One snowy night on his commute home to Wellesley, he started thinking about his future. After a successful career in finance, was it too late for teaching? With two grown daughters and his wife Marian anxious to apply her Harvard Ph.D. in economics to the workforce, he accepted a severance package and spent the next year and a half completing home projects, getting elected to the town’s recreation commission, and volunteering at Wellesley’s recycling center.
More importantly, he sat for the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure exam in math and became certified to teach secondary school, grades 9 through 12. He was hired at the Mystic Valley River Charter School, where he prepared students for their International Baccalaureate exams in economics and taught college prep-level history and math.
Wrobel spent three years in the high school classroom, developing a teaching style that encouraged free thought and open discussions. This approach resonated with his students and he became the first recipient of the school’s teacher appreciation award for “Rookie of the Year.”
Wrobel began teaching at MassBay in 2012 as an adjunct professor and six years later, became a full-time faculty member. Chief among the skills he encourages his students to hone is preparedness.
“Preparedness is a necessary life skill for success,” he said. “My job isn’t just to teach economics, but to teach students how to be successful individuals in whatever they want to do.”
He also helps his students write resumes, prepare for job interviews, compose thank you notes, dress for success, and develop a personal elevator pitch.
Wrobel has fully embraced community college teaching and is an active member of the community, working with others at MassBay to help bring to fruition a new athletic complex and a business center, both of which would be “transformative for the college.” he says.
The athletic complex would feature a basketball court, a weight-lifting room, a track, and soccer fields. The business center he imagines would include computers, a CNBC stock ticker screen, updated editions of the Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily, and a dedicated space for employers to visit and interview students, hold business seminars, and conduct investment club meetings.
“It would be a space where business students could meet others like them who are also interested in investing, and to meet with faculty, read a posted business article or statistic of the day, and view the posting of the Friday GDP number.”