Making the world a better place with economics: Eric Schuck


Riley Omonaka, Features Editor

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Erik Schuck, a Linfield economics professor, is determined to change the world. He researches the allocation of water in agriculture during scarcity. Through his research, he gives students at Linfield the tools to thrive in the professional world and help people around the globe get fed.

Climate changes alter weather patterns and precipitation around the globe that threatens to debilitate agriculture everywhere. This, combined with food insecurity created by the COVID-19 pandemic, creates a dire situation for many families around the world.

Schuck is the solution. He researches how to feed the world, with a special focus on drought economics, and teaches his students how to be empathetic and skilled economists. Schuck takes immense pride in the research he does, but more so, the young economists he shapes. He has researched around the globe with students. His goal?  Schuck aims to leave this world better than he found it.

First and foremost, Schuck is an educator. Since 2006, he’s been educating Linfield students. His commitment to his students is apparent in everything he does.

“He’s tries hard to relate to us and make the stuff we’re learning in class important to our lives,” Megan Sweeney, an economics and finance double major, said.

Equipped with his doctorate in agricultural economics and an abundance of anecdotes, Professor Schuck walks into every lecture ready to inspire the next generation.

“Oh gosh there’s so many stories,” Sweeney said. “I feel like I know his family just from all the stories he tells, but my favorites are the ones from his time in grad school.”

Professor Schuck puts his maximum effort into developing his research questions into something that can both help the world and equip his students to be working economists. Whether Schuck is teaching himself a new data analysis program or leading students on study abroad trips, Schuck is unafraid to be on the frontier of change. He doesn’t want his student to believe that there are limitations to what they can do with an education in economics.

“Economics is the study of optimal decision making in the face of scarcity. How do you make the best choice, given that you face limits?” Schuck said, “Well most people assume that this has to involve money or markets. It doesn’t. At its core economics is the study of problem-solving”

In his research, Schuck focuses mainly on two very different questions. The first deals with water usage in agriculture during drought conditions. He looks into how farmers manage water whether it be changes made to irrigation systems, crops, or how specific crops are irrigated.

“There is nothing more fundamental than how we feed people. I think it’s important to make sure we can feed as many people as possible as well as they can be fed,” Schuck said. “Part of that is understanding what the resources are that limit our agricultural productivity: such as water.”

His research has led him all over the world. He has conducted his studies in France, South Africa, and Lebanon just to name a few. Schuck has led study abroad and Fulbrights around the globe. While his time across the oceans has informed his research, they’ve also been instrumental in shaping his understanding of the world around him. He hopes to impart this sentiment on students for years to come.

“My international experience has made me more sensitive to people who don’t have enough, but who also don’t have the resources to even account for their basic needs. I try to stress to students that the problems we face in the United States are very different from the problems most people in the world face. There are still a lot of people in the world for whom ‘what’s for dinner?’ is a life or death question and we need to be respectful of that,” Schuck said.

On a most basic level, half of Schuck’s research delves into the question ‘how can we feed everyone and feed them well?’ This question could not be more important than it is in 2021. While he hasn’t necessarily unlocked all of the answers yet, every bit of data brings him one step closer.  With climate change threatening to change perception patterns, agriculturists everywhere are bracing for extreme weather patterns in formerly milder climates. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warns of flooding and droughts in areas that are not equipped to continue to support agriculture in those conditions. The world needs people like Professor Schuck who can provide insight on how to handle these massive changes in agricultural factors to avoid famine.

“Helping people make better decisions about how we use water to ensure we maintain production for people is a big deal,” Schuck said. “I want to make sure people are fed, that’s the bottom line.”

The second prong of Schuck’s research focuses on the economics of warfare. As a Naval officer, Schuck has firsthand experience with the importance of making economically informed decisions during wartime. He has been deployed in the Middle East twice and has witnessed the destruction war brings.

In his war-related research Schuck focuses on how to avoid “killing people and breaking things” as he puts it. More specifically, he investigates the ways the military uses economics to identify targets for the application of blockades or sanctions. This would allow the government to target an economy and make political progress without jeopardizing lives.

“I think this research is important because it ensures that strategists understand how to use things like economic sanctions or blockades or various other types of economic leverage to achieve policy goals instead of killing people or breaking things,” he said.

Schuck is a firm believer that minimal destruction is always preferable to death. While this project is relatively new, Schuck is all in. Using his personal experience, friendly nature, and hard-earned education he is committed to making a difference. His passion for economics and empathetic nature culminates into a professor that is adored by students.

He is well on his way to making waves in the lives of his students and beyond. Every step he takes to improve himself and answer difficult questions lays the foundation for a better future, not only for Linfield students but for the world potentially.

Economics might seem like dollar signs and investments, but it is the very laws by which this world operates. Like the laws of gravity, society follows the limitations set forth by the natural and man-made world. Schuck among others hopes to understand these rules that guide everything and make better decisions for a better future.

“It sounds trite but I want the world to be a better place. That’s the ultimate goal,” Schuck said.