Social (science) butterfly
Dec. 7, 2016
Well that’s it. Somehow I’ve become “the old guy” in the office. I mean, technically I’m not a guy and I certainly don’t think I’m old, but I’ve been around longer than almost everyone else. There are a few others who started here before me, but not many. One of my colleagues retired last week after 30 years of service to MSU. Now, I’m not close to being here that long, but with him leaving, I move up into “old guy” territory. It really seems like only yesterday I was nervously riding the elevator to fourth floor of Olds Hall starting my first day.
Everyone is nervous at a new job, but I was especially anxious because I wasn’t sure I’d fit in with a room full of former journalists. Every other person on the media team had a journalism degree and had worked as a reporter. I was walking in with a psychology degree and zero journalism experience. It’s true, I had written news releases and worked with the media in my former congressional jobs, but I still felt a bit like an outsider.
I shouldn’t have worried. Armed with a degree from MSU’s College of Social Science and my congressional staff experience, I was well prepared for anything tossed my way. When you think about it, the social sciences and the study of human behavior impact pretty much every facet of life. A background in the social sciences is a valuable tool in every career field. For me, it allowed me to easily move from one position to another – switching from media to marketing and back again (and again). I like to think of myself as a Jane-of-all-trades around the office, and a bit of a social (science) butterfly. Plus, given my understanding of human behavior, I’m often sought out as a counselor of sorts. (It probably helps that I’m the only one with a couch in their office.)
Last year I was asked to serve as a mentor to a freshman in the College of Social Science who is part of a really cool Social Science Scholars program. Elizabeth is an amazing young woman and I can’t wait to see what life has in store for her. The prestigious program not only matches students with mentors, but provides them with a challenging curriculum, study abroad opportunities and internships. Every student will be well prepared no matter what career they eventually choose.
Hannah Jones is a scholar in the program. She’s majoring in political science and criminal justice with a minor in leadership of organizations. She considers her participation in the program to be vital to her educational success. Check out the STUDENT VIEW: Social Science Scholar, to learn about her study abroad in the United Kingdom, her research project about public opinion of tax policy, her mentor and her upcoming internship with the Michigan Municipal League. Hannah is a bit of a social (science) butterfly herself.
Robert Richardson is an ecological economist and associate professor of community sustainability in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Though he works in the field of environmental sciences, he’s a firm believer in the role that social science plays in his field. In addition to his work and teaching at MSU, he’s currently serving on the Board of Scientific Counselors of the Environmental Protection Agency. In that role, he created and held a workshop based on the integration of behavioral and social sciences in environmental policy. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Insights from social science, to learn more about his philosophy and research.
Back in the day I thought I wanted to be a psychologist, which is why I chose my major. But funny how life can take you down a different path and you end up somewhere else. In my case, all the twists and turns led me to a career at MSU where I’ve stayed for an awfully long time. In true Spartan fashion, I simply stepped up to whatever challenge was presented to me and worked hard to make a difference. When you’re a Spartan, the world is filled with opportunity and possibility. So get out there. No matter if you’re a social butterfly or a solitary researcher, you have the ability to change lives. Make the most of it. Spartans Will.
Photo by Derrick L. Turner