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Julian Betts '79

Professor of Economics, University of California, San Diego. Julian was the recipient of the Governor General’s Academic Medal in 1979.

(Focus, Fall/Winter 2017-2018)
“After graduating from SJR I obtained a Bachelor’s in Chemistry at McGill, while taking extra math and a heavy dose of economics courses. After that I obtained an M.Phil. degree in Economics at Oxford and then came back to Canada where I obtained a Ph.D. in Economics at Queen’s University. Since 1990, I have been a Professor of Economics at the University of California, San Diego. Most of my research focuses on the economics of education. Some of our research is available on the website of an organization I run called the San Diego Education Research Alliance (sandera.ucsd.edu).
“So many teachers at SJR inspired us to really think rather than mindlessly memorize. The approach that Steve Johnson and Tom Bredin ’39 took in their history classes of having us read original source documents, or reason through post WWII world politics, really encouraged my later career in social sciences. The John Barsby/Don Johnson approach to teaching math, and the open-ended questions they had us work through, engendered my lifelong love of math. Extracurricular activities at SJR helped me a lot as well, such as learning how to debate from Jim Ison. Now that I have written this it seems almost unfair to have named any teacher by name, as so many teachers in each subject area inspired me.”

What advice would you give to current students at SJR?

“1. Congratulations Grade 12s, you will soon graduate. But you face the following problem. Unless you already know that your future lies in the NHL, how can you possibly know what career will work best for you? Unpaid internships or jobs during summer provide one way to learn about various occupations. Even a bad job experience matters, because it will help you to narrow down the many occupations you have contemplated. University will allow you some opportunities to try electives in different fields. Extracurricular experiences at university may also help define both your occupational interests and, more importantly, the person you will become. I had no idea I would become an economist when I started at McGill, but a few years ago it dawned on me that I had chanced upon the perfect occupation for somebody who as a high school student loved math and history – my job allows me to design statistical analyses with historical data to understand what works and what does not in public policy. What fun!

2. Nobody on their deathbed will ever say: “I wish I had spent more time on my smart phone.”

St. John’s-Ravenscourt School was founded in 1820 principally to serve the children of the Selkirk settlers. By 1834 there were forty students, evenly split between boys and girls. SJR has inevitably grown and changed over the years since, though its success throughout has been unimpeachable. We have graduated 18 Rhodes scholars, for example, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II granted patronage and established a scholarship in her name in 1981. Today the programs are as strong as our reputation. A strong academic program is paired with an equally strong attention to the values of stewardship, ethical leadership, and excellence in all areas of academic, social and athletic life.