• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Books and Scrapbooks

Nonprofit economics.

June 1, 2017

As people tend to think of Economics as being about for-profit business, they are often surprised to learn that some of us use Economics to study something very different. In my case, I study the sector of the economy that can be described as being “philanthropic,” including volunteers, nonprofit organizations and privately produced public goods. Indeed, I once had someone describe my research as being about organizations that are nonprofits, with the additional explanation that it is “about organizations that intend to not make profit, that is.” I thought of this recently as I continued to work on an updated edition to a textbook on Economics for managers of nonprofit organizations.

Part of the job of being a professor is to produce research and to assemble that research into publishable form. As part of this aspect of my job, I am spending the summer making changes to a second edition of a textbook on the Economics for Managers of Nonprofit Organizations which, after many years, is being updated. That work is taking much of my time, but in the free time I have, I am assembling a scrapbook for a family member who is reaching a milestone this year. As in the case with the textbook, I am finding the creation of the scrapbook to be a challenge. However, creating the scrapbook is also is a joy, as it connects me with my extended family in ways that I would probably not otherwise be connected. Many days are spent mulling over pictures, sometimes asking “who is that?” and sometimes marveling “look how young they look!” In my mind, I, of course, do not look any different than I did years ago.

The first scrapbook I ever made was for my grandparents as they celebrated their 50th anniversary. It re-appeared not long after that celebration, at my grandfather’s wake. I made another a few years later, when my sister graduated from eighth grade. That scrapbook traveled with her through her life, and eventually made its way to the home she shared with her family. When she died at much too young of an age, leaving two small children, I put together books using scans of the (now faded) pictures to tell her children about her and her life. I called the books “Let me tell you about your Mommy.” Had I not made that first scrapbook for her in 1983, I would not have had important pictures to include in the ones I made a few years ago. The picture of her as a baby in a 1960s-era incubator was irreplaceable, as was the picture of her as a cheerleader at her grammar school, wearing the same cheerleading uniform her daughter now wears.

I know that this is not exactly what my employer had in mind when they described part of our job as being to write and publish, especially during our somewhat “free” summers. Further, I know that the scrapbook I am assembling will not actually be published (but will be just given as a gift for this upcoming occasion.) However, this creative work in honor of first my grandparents and then my sister and now another member of my family may be the most important things that I will ever write. While including no equations or statistics, these scrapbooks highlight some of the most important moments of lives I have had the honor of sharing.

 Have any of my readers ever put together a scrapbook for a family member or members? And, if so, do you have any ideas or suggestions to share?



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