Polished. Well-bred. Cultured. Refined. Sophisticated.

I have never been accused of being these things.

I tried being these things.

I tried to do the wine and cheese parties in graduate school. Yet, my thinking was “there is always enough crackers at these things, but there is never enough E. L. Fudge cookies.” So, I brought the E. L. Fudge.

I tried looking the part of a professor. I bought the jacket. It even had the elbow patches. Yet, the first (and only) time I wore it, I took it off immediately and rolled up my sleeves before leading a panel at a conference in NYC.

I tried adhering to protocol when coming upon a colleague on campus – approach slowly, maintain a professional distance, and engage in serious conversation. Yet, whenever I saw Dr. Barr I could not help but walk over and give him some full-body contact. That is how we reaffirm a friendship where I come from.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with being polished, well-bred and all that.

What is wrong?

My original “About” page.

A few years ago, I did what most people would advise you to do when writing your own “About” page. I visited and reviewed the “About” pages of prominent economists at prominent institutions. I took note of their length, tone, and key words. More importantly, I took note of how an economist – a “good” economist – presents himself/herself to the world.

I tried. I mean it. I really tried. I tried to conform to the expectations. I tried to tow the line. I’ve tried to maintain the affectations. Yet, I always end up shaking them off.

So, staying true to form, I am shaking off my original “About” page. Here is my new “About” page:

I am a blue collar professor. For most of the year, you can expect to see dirt under my fingernails. One of my favorite smells is burning biomass. The Ohio River runs through my veins. And, no matter how far I travel, the hills of Kentucky are never too far away. I have a knack for mobilizing grassroots movements on a shoe-string budget. My pedagogy was forged on the gridiron. Three bullies and bathroom determined the path of social justice I walk today.

I am a teacher. I am a mentor. I am an activist.

There are two things I want my students to walk away with:

  1. The understanding that their role in the story of poverty’s end is as a sidekick and not a hero
  2. The belief that no matter their starting point they already have the pedigree to kick ass in this world.

If I had to make a quick escape, there are three books that I would grab:

  1. Douglass C. North “Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance”
  2. Seth Godin “Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?”
  3. Parker J. Palmer “The Courage to Teach”

My current theme song is “We Come Running” by Youngblood Hawke

The best compliment I ever received was from a student who told me that I was “10 pounds of cool in a 5 pound bag.”

And, one of my life goals is to do a one-arm pull up.

I round it off with some official stuff…which you can find on my new “About” page.

Thanks. – shawn

Oh, I started a personal twitter account: @blucollarprof


If you enjoyed this blog, you may enjoy my Halftime Speeches monthly email.

Thanks. – shawn