Jumping In: Unexpected Discoveries

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Approaching the end of my four years at UMass, I look back over my memories searching for lessons to bring into my career and share with the future students of UMass. I already talked about why every student should get involved with a group, club, or other passion while they are here. But that type of involvement only represents one part of “Jumping In.” Jumping in also means taking a journey without knowing your destination.


Four years ago, I was a strong-headed student who knew he wanted to major in political science and history. I had already decided on it. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be one of the freshman so in love with the idea of being a “college student” that I still read all of the emails that came to me from my academic departments. About a month into school, the Honors College Events email fell into my inbox. In that email was an event called “Pizza & Prof: Contending Interpretations of the Economic Crisis.”


Immediately I thought, “I don’t have much to do on Tuesday nights, and I love free pizza.” So I moseyed on over to the event in the then-Honors Lounge in Goodell 504, and I grabbed a couple of slices of delicious, free Antonio’s Pizza and sat down. Little did I know that the next two hours would shape the rest of my life.


Professor of Economics Stephen Resnick, a distinguished scholar who was part of a group that reinvigorated in the Economics Department in the 1970s and who died in Jan. 2013, drew a chart of U.S. productivity growth and wage growth from 1890 to present. It shows a divergence in the late 1970s between huge productivity increases, meaning workers were producing more than ever per hour, and flat incomes. After looking at it for a minute, I said to myself, “That’s the main problem with American politics in one graph.”


The discussion, scheduled from 5:45 to 7 p.m. went until after 8, and Resnick discussed the economic crisis from multiple theoretical foundations, not just his work on Marxism.


A few days later, I signed up for my first economics course. One semester later, my second major was economics, not history. In May, I’ll graduate with one B.A. in political science and one in economics.


While I never got the chance to take a course with Prof. Resnick or even have a one-on-one conversation, he shaped my time at UMass, my understanding of the world, and the jobs I’m interested in pursuing. My favorite course at UMass, which I took in Fall 2013, was taught by one of Resnick’s former PhD students.


Four years ago, I walked into a room looking for free pizza and walked out with a new understanding of the world and how I wanted to study it. That’s the power of jumping in: you never know what you’ll find.

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