To La Salle University Economics professor Richard Mshomba, being a good teacher requires a passion for the subject you teach and a passion for the potential of the students who learn from you.
“Teaching at La Salle is just a very rewarding experience,” Mshomba said. “I try to teach my students to believe in themselves and to know that if they work hard and take advantage of all the opportunities made available by the University and by individual faculty members, they will be successful.”
Mshomba came to La Salle when he was 27 through the aid of a missionary and a full scholarship from the University. He graduated maxima cum laude in just three years with a double major in economics and philosophy. He went to earn a Master’s degree from the University of Delaware and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
For Mshomba, who was born and raised in the village of Sinon in Arusha, Tanzania, the thought of one day being a university professor was beyond his wildest dreams. In the 1960’s in Tanzania, only five percent of students who finished elementary school were chosen to continue their education at a secondary school. “In my last two years of elementary school, I walked three and a half miles to Mass every day and prayed that I would be one of those selected to continue my education,” His prayers were answered.
He acknowledges that he is known as a tough professor in the classroom. “My professors challenged and supported me when I was an undergraduate. I want to do the same,” he said. “I have an understanding of the value of an education that others may not have. Higher education options are so limited world-wide—I want my students to realize how fortunate they are, and not to take their education for granted.”
Just as he completed his Ph.D. in 1991, Mshomba returned to La Salle University when a faculty position in the economics department opened up. He has taught and conducted extensive research in the areas of international and developmental economics with an emphasis on Africa. In 2000, he published Africa in the Global Economy, which was named aChoice Outstanding Academic Book. Following up on the success of that book, he published Africa and the World Trade Organization in 2009. He dedicated his latest book to the De La Salle Christian Brothers, for “their dedication to education throughout the world.”
In recognition of his service, both inside and outside the classroom, Mshomba has been honored with numerous awards over the years. He has received the Lasallian Distinguished Educator Award, the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, and most recently, the Warren E. Smith Award, presented by La Salle’s African American Alumni Association.
Mshomba’s contributions in education reach far beyond La Salle’s Northwest Philadelphia campus. He has taught in La Salle’s MBA program in Basel, Switzerland. Since 1993, he has been a frequent guest on Voice of America, an international radio broadcasting service run by the U.S. government. Speaking in his native Swahili, Mshomba provide commentary on various topics including U.S. presidential elections. In addition, he is a regular contributor of op-ed pieces to The Arusha Times. Mshomba, his wife, and three children travel regularly to his village in Tanzania, where are engaged in educational and developmental initiatives, including the construction of a new library.