For every one of the sixteen years I have held a Ph.D., I have been a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Beginning with my seventeenth year, I will be at the University of Chicago, with a joint appointment in the Department of Political Science and the Harris School of Public Policy. It is a bittersweet moment. I have lived in Madison longer than anywhere other than my hometown of Lincoln, Illinois. My wife, our son, and I have a community of friends and colleagues that runs deep. At the same time, life is short, and Masha and I have both been offered wonderful opportunities that we could not pass up. For anyone who is interested—and to head off the creative explanations of Political Science Rumors—let me explain my reasons.
First, I should be clear about what this decision is not. I am not fleeing Scott Walker (who is, um, no longer governor), department politics, university governance, or anything of that sort. The University of Wisconsin and its Political Science Department are healthy. Anyone who gets a chance to work or study here should take it. You will have amazing colleagues and a supportive work environment. And you will live in arguably the best college town in America. (I know of what I speak, having lived in nearly all the great college towns: Ann Arbor, Berkeley, Cambridge, and Madison.)
In short, this is all pull, no push. To understand the pull, it helps to understand me. As a scholar, I identify as both a comparativist and a political economist. At Chicago, I get to fully indulge both sides of my personality. Mornings? I’m in the Political Science Department. Afternoons? I’m at Harris. I’m having my cake and eating it too.
On top of that, it is useful to know that Chicago is investing heavily in political economy. There is a lot of hiring being done in the department, to join the already great group at Harris. Other plans are afoot. From the top down, there is a determination to make Chicago the preeminent center for the study of political economy. Stay tuned.
Finally, there is Chicago. Masha and I both miss the big city, and Chicago is our favorite big city in the country. I grew up downstate, with grandparents in the Chicago suburbs. My parents still live in Lincoln—from Chicago, a train ride rather than a drive away. (Here Scott Walker does briefly enter the picture: no high-speed rail to Madison, alas.) We want to walk to the Seminary Coop Bookstore after work, to have season tickets to the Chicago Symphony, to see the Cardinals beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field (whoops: there’s the downstate boy), and to raise our son in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in America.
Farewell, Madison. I will miss you. Hello, sweet home Chicago. I can’t wait.