The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Starr McMullen Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

September 4, 2015


“Of Economics and Fiddling”  September 4, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, McMullen discusses her upbringing in New York City and New York state, her early education and interests in music, and the path that she took to pursuing economics as an academic major. From there, she describes her experiences as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, noting her movement toward studying transportation economics, Berkeley faculty who were important to her, and her becoming a mother while on the Ph.D. track.

After a brief note on her first academic position at Central Michigan University, McMullen turns her attention to her years at Oregon State University. In this, she shares her recollections of arriving in Corvallis and of early colleagues in Economics including Bill Wilkins, Charlie Vars, Ze'ev Orzech, and Emery Castle. She likewise reflects on the historical connection between the Economics and Agricultural and Resource Economics departments at OSU; her research in transportation economics and macroeconomics; raising three children while pursuing tenure; her association with the Transportation Research Forum; the history of the OSU Transportation Institute; and her role in helping to create a graduate program in Economics at Oregon State.

From there, McMullen recalls the impact of Ballot Measure 5 on operations at OSU. She then provides detailed insight into her years as department chair and the faculty dissension that led to the dissolution of the Economics graduate program. As she rounds out her OSU memories, McMullen speaks of her experiences with the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors, as well as her involvement with the Interinstitutional Faculty Senate, the Triad Club, and the OSU Symphony.

The session nears it conclusion with a conversation on fiddling, including McMullen's first involvement with the discipline and a discussion of fiddling culture. The interview concludes with thoughts on the uneven advancement of women within the economics profession and McMullen's sense of OSU's direction moving forward.