Eric Schuck: Review of resume prompts mid-career reflection

Was it restlessness? Curiosity?

Whether the choice flowed from one, both or neither is immaterial now. I updated my resume.

Admittedly, that’s not a terribly radical action for most people. But professors don’t do it very often.

Aside from applying for a couple of Fulbrights and a sabbatical, nearly 20 years have passed since I was truly on the job market. And absent an urgent need, I mostly just keep it semi-current for accreditation purposes. Yet here I was, poring over my curriculum vitae in preparation for its first major overhaul in years.

Some parts were easy, notably the Navy Reserve half of my record, which I am required to keep up to date. But the academic side took serious effort.

It took genuine effort to condense three decades of teaching evaluations from four different schools using seven different forms into a coherent, yet brief, narrative.

The process revealed some awkward realities. To steal a line from Tennyson, “That which we are, we are.”

It seems what I write and publish today is very different from what I did even a decade ago.

There is no masking the fact my technical skills have eroded. I do not produce high-end economics journal articles the way I once did.

In hindsight, it makes sense. Something had to give.

Teaching at a small college is a lot like preparing 500 different “TED Talks” per year. Faced with a choice between keeping current in the classroom and keeping current in my own research, I chose my students’ education over my own prestige.

I can live with that. For while my skills declined, my wisdom grew.

At this stage in my career, I have helped generations of students navigate through economic problems. So while others have vastly better coding skills, my understanding of what to do, when to do it and why to do it ranks pretty high.

More critically, I developed the capacity to create these abilities in others. Somewhat ironically, I now build better economists than I am myself.

Acknowledging this matters. Like it or not, I sit squarely in the 50-something middle-age gap — a long way from the start of my career, yet nowhere near retirement. Sizing up who I am now — and embracing it — has value.

Vanity would look at these changes as devolution, a retreat from the frontiers of my profession.

That’s not it at all, though. It’s evolution.

The mentor replaced the technician. Today, my role is no longer to blaze ahead myself, but rather to prepare others for their own journeys so they may go further still.

I’m proud of this. After all, this is what committed educators do, and sorting through my resume definitely helped frame it.

The task also prompted me to address a decidedly uncomfortable question: What’s next? Should the coming 20 years of my life look like the last, or something else entirely?

I don’t know, at least not today.

Education, but especially higher education, is dramatically different than when I started. Even locally, demand and support for higher education is more fragile than anything I observed over the last 30 years.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t concern me, or that in my bleaker moments, I didn’t contemplate a life outside of Linfield.

While I don’t know quite what I intend to do with it, re-writing my resume proved decidedly informative. At one level, it reminded me of exactly what skills and abilities I bring to bear.

Were I to leave teaching, I’d have options. Given Linfield’s recent history, that knowledge is a comfort.

Yet I read something else, as well.

Reviewing what is, quite literally, my life’s work — counting the students I taught and measuring up all they accomplished — testifies to who I am and what I do.

Sharing a classroom with my students has made the title of “Professor” one of the great joys of my life, right up there with “Dad,” “Husband” and “Captain.” Re-writing my resume helped remind me why.

Guest writer Eric Schuck holds a Ph.D. in economics from Washington State University and a professorship in economics at Linfield University. He’s twice been honored with Fulbright Fellowships to work and study abroad, once in South Africa and once in Lebanon. A captain in the Navy Reserve, he’s also served a pair of active-duty military tours in the Middle East. A proud Scandinavian by heritage, he makes his home in McMinnville with his wife and three children.


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