Get To Know Your SPA Professors: Dean Paul Teske

Connecting with your professors can benefit you in the classroom and beyond.  Read this series to dive deeper into the minds of our professors and get answers to some fun and interesting questions. We asked professors to reflect on their career, advice for students, non-academic hobbies and interests.

Photo of Dean TeskeWhere does your passion/inspiration for your work come from? Is it why you entered your field?

I always loved politics, and the idea that it could improve society and lives.  I later learned that economics had a rigorous, sometimes mathematical model of human behavior, to which I was drawn.  In college, I double-majored in economics and political science, knowing that the intersection – political economy or public policy – was were my true interests were.  I feel blessed to have been able to pursue and study issues in these domains all of my life.  It is endlessly fascinating to me.

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were entering grad school?

Your performance in grad school and first jobs have a lot of influence on where you end up, ultimately.  While there is some mobility in our profession, perhaps more so than in most, it is still limited.

What’s your favorite quote?

From the French: “Not to be a socialist at age 20 is to be without a heart; not to be a capitalist at age 40 is to be without a head.”   Not exactly true, but it captures something interesting about life and politics.

 What is your research/teaching philosophy?

Find interesting and important issues and see if you can use a theoretical perspective to test them, with data.

Screen grab of Dean Teske

 If you were not a professor, what would you be?

Professor is the best job – we get to work with smart young people and study interesting things.  It is the top job perhaps only after professional athlete or rock star – both of which I had mild aspirations toward, as a kid, but no realistic course.  I think psychiatrist would be interesting, but really hard.

What is your favorite non-academic reading/interests?

A favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald –  of course “Gatsby,” but also “Tender is the Night.”  When I got to graduate school at Princeton I read his “This Side of Paradise,” which is about his years there.

Increasingly I like biographies.  Some say that ultimately “history is biography” and the older I get, the more I see that.  I find particularly interesting stories of resilience, where someone failed and was written off, but came back to have a meaningful “second act.”

What was your first concert?

The group Chicago, ironically in NYC.  I played the trumpet in HS and loved the horn section tied to rock, rather than just jazz.

Where have you lived outside of Colorado?

I grew up in the Hudson Valley, NY state – wet, humid, lush green, rolling mountains, beautiful wide river, deep Dutch settlement history.

Also, North Carolina (Chapel Hill – college – best college town in the U.S.); New Jersey – Princeton – also pretty campus, rich but boring town; New York City – beautiful brownstone Brooklyn, during the time when it became a hipster heaven.

What is your ideal vacation? Or where do you like to travel?

I’ve been to Europe a lot – I love the combination of history, architecture, food, culture, lifestyle and shared public life.  I’m pretty convinced they live better than most Americans.  Most European cultures have a version of this, but the Italian “passagiata” is a time in late afternoon when everyone leaves work, eats a gelato and strolls the streets, people watching and enjoying life.  Very cool.

What gets you up every morning? What keeps you up at night?

Family is so important.  And, I love the work of public affairs and trying every day to help make SPA as great as it can be.  I worry about Colorado’s fiscal situation, which TABOR makes into a mess, and funding for higher ed in Colorado.

Categories: Academics, Features

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