What is your name?
Dr. Samuel R. Staley.
What kind of work do you do in the College?
I am the Director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University. In addition to my responsibilities providing strategic direction and supervision of center operations and programs, I teach advanced undergraduate and professional masters courses in social entrepreneurship, economic development, land use and regulation, urban policy, and research methods.
Why did you decide to become an academic?
I’ve been at this so long I needed to think about this question!
I have always been curious about the world and why humans do what they do. After working for several years in the private sector, I decided that a more rigorous approach to learning would help me better understand how the world works. I started in a masters program in applied economics (Wright State University) and then progressed to doctoral studies at George Mason University and Ohio State University. It was not an easy journey – I was on the ten year plan – but I am where I am now at FSU serving as Director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center because I stuck to that plan!
My original goal was to enter into a tenure-track economics position as an assistant professor and focus on research. My interests, however, are much broader than economics and publishing in academic research. In addition to peer-reviewed journal articles, my CV quickly started filling up with grant-funded applied research, policy reports for think tanks, legislative testimony, speeches, and commentary. As it turned out, I spent most of my career as a full-time policy analyst and research project manager in public policy think tanks.
Prior to coming to FSU in 2011, for example, I was the Robert W. Galvin Fellow at Reason Foundation and headed up its China Mobility Project. I managed applied research projects in Xi’an, Beijing, Chongqing while also advising federal, state, and local policymakers on growth management, land use, and transportation policy in the U.S.
Coming to Florida State was a return of sorts to academia, although my work is very much in the applied policy slice of the university community.
What do you find most fulfilling about your job?
I really enjoy being the director of a research center with the flexibility to strategically place resources to boost our research and educational mission. We are fortunate to have an endowment (established by DeVoe Moore in 1998), supplemented by external grants. This funding base allows us to engage in important but potentially controversial research while also giving students the professional skills they need to be successful in the workplace and in graduate school.
Because of our endowment, and our mission-oriented focus on state and local government, students get an inside look at how policy works. They can lift up the hood and see what levers of policy get pulled, when, and by whom. They see both the benefits and limits of theory by being immersed in the practical realities of governing.
I was well into my thirties before I was able to see the kinds of things our students see in their late teens and early twenties each semester. They will be better citizens because of it.
I am also able to apply the cumulative knowledge of my experience in public policy every day to the center’s work. This is very fulfilling.
What are you working on or teaching right now that has you excited professionally?
I tell people all the time that I happened to land at Florida State during a particularly innovative period of its development as a public university. The university, and College of Social Sciences and Public Policy in particular, has allowed me to create new programs and courses almost continuously for the past ten years.
Right now, I am most excited about the experiential learning opportunities for students in the DeVoe Moore Center and the College. We have built a student-centered, immersive research component to the center’s work that engages about 30 students over the academic year. I enjoy seeing how our faculty and staff mentorship helps these students achieve goals and objectives they never thought possible. We increasingly integrate our applied policy work outside the formal classroom into the classroom room using cutting-edge and best practice student-centered learning tools and strategies. We are very proud of our student placements in jobs and graduate schools, as well as their ability to publish and present their work in professional and academic settings. We think these placements are directly tied to our immersive, applied focus that integrates academics with professional practice.
On a more personal professional level, I have enjoyed applying my knowledge of economics, public policy, and entrepreneurship to pop culture. My most recent books, both published by Routledge, are Contemporary Film and Economics and The Beatles and Economics. The first book reveals how economics is embedded in the human stories told in modern film. The book on the Beatles uses recent contributions to entrepreneurship theory and research to understand the band’s remarkable and unreplicated level of innovation through the 1960s.
Dr. Staley is the director of the DeVoe Moore Center. You can learn more about Dr. Staley here.
The feature image is from Pexels.