By Liz Warren-Pederson
Earlier this year, at a celebration attended by MIS and economics faculty, Eller recognized professor Dave Pingry’s 39 years of teaching and research at the College.
“Jay Nunamaker and I came in the same moving van from Purdue in 1974,” he said. They were hired together, along with economists Vernon Smith and John Drabicki. “We were all in very quantitative fields of study and used a lot of computers.”
Pingry was initially hired as a research economist with Eller’s Economic and Business Research Center. “We were conducting Arizona-relevant research,” he said. One signature project involved the Central Arizona Project (CAP) and state water resource policy. During that period, the Freedom of Information Act had just passed, and so Pingry was able to access and work with Bureau of Land Management data. “It was a huge federal project, and hugely political,” he said of the work. Pingry is proud of the work he did on the issue, but the politics of it was frustrating. “There is a straightforward solution to the issue, but things aren’t going to change much,” he said. “I didn’t want to spend my whole life saying the whole thing.”
Meanwhile, a seismic shift was underway in business schools across the country, with the new field of management information systems. Pingry said that many economics professors were making the switch to MIS, and he was among them. “They are very different fields,” he said. “The core theory of economics is the same, but MIS is always changing.” He moved into MIS the same year the College found a new home for itself in McClelland Hall, 1997. Pingry led the department as its chair and continued to teach and pursue his research.
In recent years, that research focused on patent policy through a series of projects with doctoral student Matt Thatcher. “People are always out there saying patent policy should be this way or that way – all these pop culture statements,” he said. “There’s no overarching theory on patent policy.” He and Thatcher looked at patent policy through three dimensions – length, difficulty of acquisition, and length of holding. “There was no existing theory on how those elements interact,” he said. “We started out trying to come up with a model using game theory and principle agent theory. In real world these things aren’t easy. We don’t have a solution yet, but modeling gets people to think of the dimensions as they interact.”
Looking back, he said, “The most interesting to me was that I got the opportunity to change, to experience the movement to new ideas, to try new jobs, and new things. I had experience with administrative strategy and politics, all without changing my house.”
Top image of McClelland Hall by Thomas Veneklasen.