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: Sara Holland
Why is reading the newspaper daily so important to you?
During the early 2000s, I worked as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve in Washington D.C. for three years. Being an RA at the Fed is an excellent opportunity to learn what research is all about, because you’re getting paid to do a lot of what is required in an academic career. Besides, working at the Fed was possibly the coolest job I could have imagined getting after college.
Washington D.C. is an awesome place for young people. There is good public transportation and the Smithsonian Complex is free to the people living there. When you wake up on Saturday and wonder what you’re going to do, you go check out a lot of great stuff like the Air and Space Museum, the Hirshhorn, and the zoo.
Five weeks after I moved to Washington D.C. the September 11 terrorist attacks took place on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. You can see the Pentagon from the Federal Reserve building’s cafeteria. It all happened while I was at work. Within minutes of arriving at the office, we heard about the first plane hitting one of the towers. At the time no one really knew what was happening.
But then the second plane hit the other tower and a third plane hit the Pentagon and rumors about other possible attacks began to circulate around D.C.
No one said, ‘Let’s get up and leave.’ I would have stayed the whole day, but one of the economists at my office said, “You should probably go home, you don’t need to be here.”
At that point, they asked everyone who was non-critical to go home and I was definitely non-critical. My family was calling and wanting to know what was going on.
I was living in Arlington, which is right across the Potomac River. It’s a five-minute ride on the Metro -- but there was a lot of confusion in the city and so I made the 45-minute walk back to my apartment with a couple of other RAs and another economist. We spent the next couple of hours watching CNN like everyone else was doing and later went to the roof of my apartment building and watched the smoke rising from the Pentagon.
Things changed at the Fed after that. You had to wear your badge all the time and you always had to go through a metal detector to enter the building. When I first got there, Chairman Alan Greenspan would just walk into the regular entrance with everybody else, but that also stopped.
On top of that, and unrelated to September 11, was the Anthrax scare. The Fed had anthrax residue in the mailroom, which was something else we had to deal with.
I didn’t feel scared about my decision to move to Washington D.C., but the events were shocking. During those weeks my mom was suggesting that I should move back home. I shared her worry with one of the economists.
“Where are you from?” he asks.
“You can tell your mom that there was a time in the 1960s when everyone thought that Dallas was the most dangerous city in America.”
I didn’t consider myself closed off in college. I was not a regular newspaper subscriber at the time, but I watched the news on television. I didn’t consider myself ignorant of current events at all. But after September 11, it instilled a powerful need for me to know a lot more about what was going on in the world.
Because I’m a finance researcher—and finance is an applied field like others at the business school—you have to read what’s going on in the news every day. The events in the world inform the kind of research that you do as well as give you an outlet to explain why your research is important. But keeping up with current events is important for everyone in this country. It’s both a professional and personal investment.
These are the common stories of our lives and to have the knowledge to discuss them with others at some reasonable length makes you worldly and more capable of connecting with others.
It was a really important change in the way that I lead my daily life. I look at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal everyday. It would not surprise my students to hear this because I begin every single lecture that I teach at UGA with a discussion about what’s going on in the world.