After 34 years at Chatham, Charlotte E. Lott, Ph.D., is retiring from her post as Associate Professor of Economics in the Department of Business & Entrepreneurship. With a focus on microfinance and economic development in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, she has been a huge proponent of microloans as a means to economic security and growth among small-scale entrepreneurs in developing nations, especially among women.
Dr. Lott attended University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, receiving both a Bachelor of Arts in History along with a Masters of Library Science. After relocating to Pittsburgh following her husband’s acceptance of a job at Westinghouse, she decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Pittsburgh. While seemingly a shift, the step was actually a logical choice. Dr. Lott was a librarian at the University of Wisconsin Land Tenure Center Library, now a part of the Nelson Institute, whose mission is “to promote equitable and sustainable land stewardship, particularly where biodiversity or local livelihoods are at risk”. Determined to get a Ph.D. but unsure of the field, she settled on Economics to further her foray into this focus.
As a board member of Oikocredit Western Pennsylvania, part of a larger international cooperative and social investment organization that provides funding to small and medium-sized enterprises in the microfinance, cooperative, and fair-trade sectors, Dr. Lott has also presented on the role of microfinance in larger economies. In 2009 she was published in The Journal of Law and Commerce, a University of Pittsburgh Law School publication; her piece, “Why Women Matter: The Story of Microcredit”, discusses microcredit as a powerful tool in the fight against poverty and as a catalyst for greater societal transformation. Beyond her role as an economics professor, she has also served on many committees here at Chatham, including as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and as Chair of the Curriculum Committee on General Education for four years. In 2014, she was awarded the Women of Achievement Award by Celebrate and Share, a Pittsburgh-based organization that applauds the achievements of women in the area and to raise funds for women and children in need in our community.
Dr. Lott sat down to speak with me during her last semester here at Chatham to reflect on her experience here, including on what makes Chatham special. “One of the great things is that we’re small enough that you’re not siloed,” she says, championing the small size of our university. “I don’t just talk to people in the business department; I talk to people in the sciences, the humanities, the arts, and other social sciences, and that’s great because [it really] broadens your perspective.” She also cites the rich programing the university offers, expressing how much she’ll miss walking just across campus to hear a guest lecturer or partake in an afternoon music series. What she’ll remember most fondly is the opportunity to work directly with students on Tutorials (now Capstones). “I’ve been here 34 years, so I was the tutor for over 100 tutorials,” she reminisces. “You remember those students.” While looking forward to retirement, she imagines she will miss the rhythm of academia; the novelty of a new semester and students and the peak of a semester’s pitch followed by the rest period is something she has become accustomed to. When asked about her outlook for upcoming grads, Dr. Lott was hopeful. “Graduates are entering a very tight labor market, and I think most people will find jobs in their fields—and that’s great,” she says. However, she confesses, she prefers booms and recessions when she’s teaching economics. “Even though I don’t wish for [a bad economy], when things are going well it’s boring.”
As far as her own outlook, Dr. Lott is looking forward to spending time with her two new grandchildren (in addition to her two older ones) and traveling. “My husband and I have done a lot of travel, but we’ve done it separately.”
Chatham University’s outlook is also bright, she says. “Chatham is a vibrant place to come to school and to work; the business department is doing very well in terms of new programs and where it’s moving. I think the historical legacy of a women’s college will always be with Chatham, and they’re doing a good job of honoring that with the Women’s Institute and all the work that they are doing at keeping issues of gender equity and access in the forefront.”
Dr. Lott’s final advice to students? “You can’t stop learning at the end of college. We can’t possibly teach you everything that you need to know; really what we’re doing is teaching you how to learn.” So keep learning.
Thanks to Dr. Charlotte Lott for 34 years of dedicated service to the Chatham Community!
Tricia Wancko is an MBA/Masters of Food Studies candidate who is just as interested in cuisine and anthropology as she is in the economic and political structures that shape our food system. With over a decade of experience in hospitality and entrepreneurship, she’s interested in broadening her toolkit here at Chatham to do her part in helping to rebuild regional food economies. She holds a BS in Communication from Boston University with a focus on design and has over a decade of experience in NYC fine dining restaurants, tourism and events in New York’s Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains, food entrepreneurship, and small-scale farming. Grateful for her past hands-on opportunities, she’s enjoying taking advantage of all Chatham has to offer.