Billy Foster, PhD

Billy Foster

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Ask a physicist how long it would take a bowling ball to land if you dropped it from the roof of your house. He will happily assume that your house is located in a vacuum, and then proceed to calculate the right answer. Ask an engineer to predict the path of a billiard ball after it is struck at a certain angle. He will assume that there is no such thing as friction, and the accuracy of his prediction will give him no cause for regret. Ask an economist to predict the effects of a rise in the gasoline tax. He will assume that all people are rational and give you a pretty accurate response. — Steven E. Landsburg, The Armchair Economist (1993)

When I graduated high school, I was certain that I would become a high school physics teacher. I had a passion for math, and physics granted me the first opportunity to apply it to the real world.  After two years at the University of Illinois, I learned that my life’s work would not be in physics.

I left school and headed home to Chicago. I spent my nights immersed in the local band scene trying desperately to succeed as a musician. The  first job I accepted to pay for my music habit was as a data analyst. Nearly immediately I realized that there had to be a better way to utilize data, but had a very poor understanding of advanced statistics. This would change. I was unfulfilled at my job and my music stardom dreams had been quashed. I learned that my life’s work would not be in music.

I decided to return to school at Northeastern Illinois University. Economics found me immediately and I fell in love. I had discovered the lens through which I would examine the world. I decided to pursue graduate school. After my undergraduate degree, I entered the PhD program at George Mason University. My years there were amazing. I had gone to study Public Choice and Law and Economics, but found so much more.

After finishing course work there and earning a masters degree I came back home to continue my studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I could not get enough of my studies and took every teaching opportunity I could find. The last few years have been so rewarding that part of me–a very small part of me–was sad to see graduate school end.

It did end, however, and I was awarded my PhD in August of 2014. I am currently teaching full time at Arizona State University. It has been a long journey, but a fun one. I have found a home that embraces my love for inspirational teaching, desire for interesting research, and appreciation for academic community.