Steven Pearlstein has made a career taking a critical look at global events as an economics and business columnist for the Washington Post. The 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner for Commentary joined the Mason faculty in 2011 as a Robinson Professor of Public and International Affairs. We caught up with him at the end of his first semester to see how he fared.
Are you used to being called “professor” yet?
Barely. The students call me professor, and that’s great, but the staff at various offices call me “doctor” and I have to correct them.
With your credentials, you could teach anywhere. Why Mason?
Well, Mason offered me a job. I had been negotiating with a major university for six months; they were very interested, but I couldn’t get them off the dime. At one point I was talking to [President Emeritus] Alan [Merten] about something else and I said, By the way, would you be interested? And he said, Someone will call you in the morning. And somebody did. I had an offer 10 days after that.
What do you think about your students?
The best students are, I imagine, as good as the best anywhere. I’m pretty lucky because I teach in the Honors College and those students are great, and I’m enjoying them a lot. I teach freshmen and I sort of like that. They’re just discovering a lot of things about the world, and it’s fun to watch them have “a-ha!” moments.
Are you an “easy A”?
No, not an easy A. But I did a detailed survey at the end of the course, and I’m really impressed by the fact that the first thing they say is, “I liked the class because I learned a lot.” Even the students who found the course hard and struggled with it said they learned a lot.
You’re a full-time professor, but you still do a column for the Washington Post. How do you manage the time?
I’m not a good juggler. I’m here four days a week and then Thursdays at noon I turn into a columnist. I usually leave, but sometimes I close the door here and I write the column on Friday afternoon. But if you do [this kind of work] long enough, you can do it relatively quickly. Since I’ve been at Mason, my column has gotten longer, and people ask is that intentional? No it’s not. It’s because I don’t have time to make it shorter.