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Rethinking Supply and Demand

July 26, 2018 | By Kimberly Uslin

Graduate Institute student Jaime Marquez is an economics professor at Johns Hopkins University.

When his oldest daughter finished high school, Jaime Marquez’s family mailbox quickly began to fill with brochures and catalogs from colleges and universities across the country, each promising the experience of a lifetime. Within the sea of glossy pages, however, a single school stood out: St. John’s.

“I said to her, ‘You have to go there,’” Marquez (AGI20) recalls. His daughter, however, didn’t share his enthusiasm. She opted to attend another school, and St. John’s was tabled for the time being. But when his younger daughter began considering colleges a few years later, Marquez was again insistent.

“'You have to go to this place,’” he told her, but she too ended up elsewhere ... and Marquez realized that he might have been misplacing his response to the Johnnie call. After retiring from the Federal Reserve, he made a trip to Annapolis to see the campus for himself. A job offer from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies put his plans on hold yet again—but still, he says, “there was this longing curiosity about this place, this lingering thing [that] wouldn’t go away.”

When he finally enrolled in the Graduate Institute in the summer of 2018, the reason for his years-long yearning became clear.

“I have an immense curiosity and immense desire to see where we come from, intellectually speaking,” he says. “St. John’s is helping me craft my own way. The truth is largely a personal affair, and a big [part] of reaching that or initiating that process is acquainting yourself with your own ignorance.”

For a Hopkins professor with a PhD in economics, this was a surprising and humbling challenge. Marquez had been, in his words, “expecting to know the answers”—and though economics has more room for interpretation than some of its less theoretical counterparts, transitioning from the world of technical facts and established theory has been eye-opening.

This non-linear, question-everything line of thinking is so valuable, in fact, that he hopes to pass it on to his own students. Marquez has begun designing his own seminar for 10 to 12 students (in which he hopes to study Hume and Adam Smith), but plans more immediately to introduce Johnnie thinking into the traditional economics classroom—though he readily admits this will not be without its challenges.

“There are a couple of technical obstacles to doing this,” he says. “First, my classes are a lot bigger. The second obstacle is my sense that the students are expecting to receive something as opposed to give something. They’re expecting lectures, slides, homework problems ... they want to know what’s going to be on the midterm.”

Rewiring that line of thinking won’t be easy, but Marquez believes that might be the reason he was so drawn to St. John’s from the outset. His calling, or “spark,” is to “engage the student so that [he or she] can begin his or her process of attending to his or her own curiosity.”

“I want to show them that there is more than one way of approaching truth, and slides and lecturers can do something, but that that’s not the only way. There is a lot more to life than their GPA.”

He thinks for a moment. “If I can do that,” he says, “then I can declare myself successful.”

In the meantime, he is enjoying his own, long-awaited experience as a Johnnie.

“I have only one regret: not having done this earlier.”