I was born and raised in southeastern Washington (Walla Walla—yes, it’s a real town!). When I was 15 my family (parents and two brothers) moved up north of Seattle. I always enjoyed sports, and especially played a lot of baseball as a kid. I was also good at school, and played music as a child also. I played the “coolest” instrument you can think of for about 7 years as a kid…..the accordion! I actually wish I still had it, although I’d need to learn it all over mostly.
My parents were not religious, but they encouraged us kids to go to church and youth group growing up. Those were my early days of realizing that we are part of a larger story. Of course, one understands things at only a certain level as a 12-year old, but it was around that time that I decided I needed and wanted Jesus in my life. I unfortunately did most things my own way still until my early 20s. At some point I realized that I cannot have one foot on each side of the fence in life. This world is broken, life is hard (still is!), but the Lord gives me hope to live for something bigger than me, and I don’t have to walk this road alone.
So I went to grad school (economics) at Arizona (1992-1997). I was in Tucson 5 years, and after my Ph.D. in economics, and marrying Laura, here I am 20 years later with two great kids, on academic job #3, and doing many things I would not have imagined back as a 20 year old. I won’t dwell or go into detail, but I’ve gone through more pain and struggle than I thought possible as an adult. Remember, I was pretty good at most everything I did as a kid, and am still quite good at many things, but that can make one think “who needs anything else if I’ve got it under control and life seems to be working out fine?” I think my adult-life struggles and pain were necessary to break me and turn my focus on this “bigger story” in life. I think we’re actually in control of almost nothing, but we’re all here for a purpose, and the purpose is not about us. I also think we all have been, are, or will be broken at some point in life, and so the real question is what we do with being broken and realizing we can’t fix it. Honestly, you would probably not have me as a professor of yours today if not for the changes God has done inside me. Thankfully, I’m not the same angry, control-freak person I once was. Sure, I had reasons to be angry, and I had reasons why I tried to manage my world in detail, but that all became a prison. It feels great to now be free from all that!
As for work, I love being an economics professor. I’ve been blessed to have great colleagues and collaborations that have allowed me to travel all over the place doing research-related work. I love seeing the “light bulb” go on in a student’s head when he/she really grasps a concept I’m trying to teach. And I love my research where I get to run experiments to try and understand why people behave the way they do. I hope to be doing this another 20 years!