Chris Blattman

Tenure! And… a move to the University of Chicago

[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] Over the weekend, with my wife working, I decided to venture down to my old stomping grounds, Hyde Park, and in particular, the campus of University of Chicago.  I've been gone for a couple months now and while I am happy to move on with new adventures, this place will never grow old to me.  Walking through the various quads, soaking in the rich history and architecture, it was great to be back.  With the sun setting, I could only think of one vantage point to capture this fleeting light: Rockefeller Chapel.  I've posted an image very similar to this a while back, but I couldn't resist (and besides, with new gear in hand, I feel like it's all new again).  I was hoping for a kaleidoscope of color as the sun ventured further below, but amazingly the clouds vanished.  Either way, it was a true pleasure to be back on familiar grounds, with camera in hand.

First thing first: tenure at last!

For those of you thinking “Wait, weren’t you an Associate Professor already?” or “What are you talking about? Didn’t you graduate ages ago? Shouldn’t you be retiring by now?”: the answer is yes, Yale and Columbia have looooong tenure clocks (I started in 2008) and a peculiar non-tenured Associate stage, and I have been dwelling in that limbo for some time. But no longer.

The other news is that, four weeks from now, I will join University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy as the Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies.

This is exciting but bittersweet news, because I leave an amazing group of colleagues and students behind at Columbia University. There were many attractions to staying at Columbia, and it was a difficult decision to leave. But what U of C and Harris are building is simply too exciting an opportunity to pass up.

Last year, Chicago received the second largest gift in the university’s history, $100 million from The Thomas L. Pearson and The Pearson Family Members Foundation, to start The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts. The Pearson Institute is going to have a large number of new senior and junior faculty. Besides me, the other inaugural hire is my good friend and collaborator Oeindrila Dube, from NYU, who will take a second chair.

The Institute will also host The Pearson Global Forum, a huge annual global forum devoted to the study and resolution of global conflicts. As Jackson Hole is to macroeconomic policy, the Global Forum aims to be to the policy and academic forum for global security.

This is all part of the Harris School’s scheme to become the best place to study the political economy of development. Last year, Jim Robinson joined from Harvard and Konstantin Sonin from Moscow’s New Economic School. Also working on security and development issues are Ethan Bueno de Mesquita and Roger Myerson. Austin Wright from Princeton is joining as an Assistant Professor. Next year there will undoubtedly be more names you know. In development more broadly there’s Michael Greenstone, Anjali Adukia, Ofer Malamud, and Alicia Menendez.

If I can continue the sales pitch to prospective students and hires: Harris is also an amazing place to study urban issues (it is home to the famed Crime Lab) and U.S. education, health, and labor markets. It has a incredibly strong group of labor economists and political economy scholars.

If you want to think about where to place the Harris School in the constellation of U.S. policy schools, as far as I can tell (so far) the best description is probably: the hard one. Harris believes in training undergraduates, master’s students, and PhDs in rigorous quantitative social science. I’m kind of amazed by what the students learn and can do. Dean Karlan at Yale (founder of IPA) is a graduate. People like me, Jim, Oeindrila, Ethan, and the exciting new hires to come are going to help push that in an international direction.

When you get $100 million, that also means you make a flashy video. So here is The Pearson Institute:

152 Responses

  1. Congratulations on a promotion well-deserved. Perhaps my recent reading of The Bottom Billion has heavily influenced me, but orderliness in a society seems to be a prerequisite to development.
    Culture, perhaps especially religious cultural beliefs, are probably the most under-studied part of development (importance / studies) — tho such studies would likely show the superiority of Christianity and many development folk are mildly or strongly hostile to Christians. The Obama-Clinton enabling of Islamic genocide against Christians is unlikely to be well studied in the near future.

    A bit ironic to study Global Security in the US city with the most murders — the most insecure Big City in the US.

    Very Very glad you’re getting more recognition for mostly good work.

  2. Congratulations.
    Though I must say that after watching that video I feel quite dismayed. The pitch simplifies global conflict to a technical problem that if only we had more rigerous quantitative analysis, could be solved. As if countless other US public policy schools don’t subscribe to the same “innovative” thinking. Not once, if my one-watch observation is correct, was the word democracy used, or individual political and economic rights for those affected/the poor.
    100 million USD sure sounds like a good investment for more publications that distract from what I think is the gravest problem: poor countries oppressing the majority of their poor population at the expense of propping up a minority elite, and a development audience fixated on material development, which distracts from discussions of rights and keeps thugs in power; all this with the tacit support of rich countries that can’t stand by their values and convictions because of the messy realities of geopolitics.
    But I’m sure this time is different and we’ll really come up with the solutions to end global conflict. More skills training! Dialogue! Building economic foundations! Growing businesses! More study!
    How about simply respecting the rights of the poor, interpreted in the broadest sense possible.
    Long-time Canadian reader

  3. I graduated there with a BA in 2015, and decided to pursue my MPP elsewhere. At the time UChicago had a relatively weak development program, and there was only one professor who taught an undergrad course on ipe afaik. What a difference 2 academic years make! Might have changed my decision if I had known, but congrats.

  4. Congratulations. I guess. The only reliable advice you can give someone who’s moving up in a new environment is to get ready to duck. But I’m sure you’ll do well there.

  5. Huge congrats, Chris!

    When do you move to Chi-town? I’ll be there in October for the marathon. Would love to see you!

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