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: Carolyn Dehring
How did you get into research?
I started in accounting at Valparaiso and I decided in my junior year I wasn’t accounting material. I saw my friends majoring in English sitting around reading novels and I thought you’ve got this figured out! Not to insult anyone, it’s just that I love literature that much.
I’m in several book clubs. I’m a fan of the modernists. I enjoyed Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and especially Henry James. Modern Library has a list of the 100 best books of the 20th century and I’m going back and reading them.
Anyway, I called my family and told them that I figured out how to change my major to English and still graduate within four years. They said, “That’s great, we don’t know how you’re going to pay for the rest of your college, but you go for it.”
I was never happy as an accountant. My first job was at a pharmaceutical company as a cost accountant. Then I had a couple of jobs with real estate developers. While I enjoyed real estate, I was never very challenged and never felt like I fit in anywhere.
I went back to school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to get my MBA and I was fortunate enough to meet Brett Ambrose (a UGA graduate and student of Terry Emeritus Professor Jim Kau) who is now at Penn State. I was able to be his research assistant and essentially saw what he did and thought I would like to do his job. It was the first time I was drawn to research.
My husband got into the master’s program at Illinois and Michigan and chose Illinois. So I applied for a research associate position at Illinois and got it. Brent told me the guy to work with was Peter Colwell.
I wrote for a newsletter at the Illinois’ Office of Real Estate Research. They were “think pieces” that a student in intermediate microeconomics could use, but written at a level that your aunt could read.
That’s where I learned how to write. Peter advised me to apply to the PhD program at Illinois. I was admitted and he became my advisor.
Research is a great job if you’re curious and you continue to ask questions. I hope that I ask questions that matter.