The Terry website and magazine devotes a lot of attention to faculty contributions that impact students, the field of research, and the reputation of the college. However, an essential part of the college experience is a student’s personal path to acquire knowledge.
The “In Their Own Words” series examines some of the more personal paths of faculty at the Terry College. Answering a single question, the professors and lecturers share a breadth and depth of experiences that, while unique, are also universal of the journeys of prospective and current students and alumni.
In Their Own Words: Annette Poulsen
What was your undergraduate major and why did you choose it?
I grew up in Port Townsend, Washington. It’s a small mill and fishing town of 5,000 people on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula. It’s the town where they filmed “An Officer And a Gentleman”.
People from my high school class were extras in the movie. The fort where it was set was a fort from WWI and is now a state park. I worked at the snack bar there as a kid.
I’m the youngest of four. My mother worked at the local J.C. Penny. My dad worked at the paper mill. The town was so small that we didn’t even have a McDonald’s.
Even so, my mom and dad instilled an international perspective in us. My mom grew up in New York City and my dad grew up in Copenhagen. They met on a ship going from New York to Copenhagen after WWII when my mom was visiting family in Denmark and my dad was working on the ship.
To pay my way through Washington State I worked in the paper mill during the summer. The mill made raisin trays from brown paper and it was cut a certain way and then shipped to California to dry the grapes on.
I worked the line. It was actually like the work in “An Officer and A Gentleman.”
It was shift work so you work midnight to eight, eight to four, or four to midnight. It was a great job and it paid really well for a college student.
Even so, I was not a driven person. I never thought I had to get out of Port Townsend or “do something.”
I was originally pre-law and public administration. You think to yourself that you need to get a job when you’re done with this so it feeds into a specific career.
But then I started taking economics classes and thought they were the most fun of anything I had ever done. Making graphs, drawing lines and curves, and explaining things numerically was something I wanted to do for a living.
By my junior year I realized that if I took nothing but economics my senior year I could graduate with an economics degree. But then you think how am I going to get a job doing this?
You’ll find a lot of people who eventually get PhD’s who say they took intermediate microeconomics and that was it. I was one of them. Next thing I knew, I was going to graduate school.
It all just kind of happened. Half of the people in the PhD program will tell you that they knew early on because they grew up with a professor and the other half made the choice as they went along.