Craig Rusbult  —  My Life on a Road Less Traveled


Craig Rusbult - photo

Until recently, I was teaching part-time in the Chemistry Dept at UW-Madison.  In the near future, I hope to begin full-time collaborations with other educators who want to develop curriculum & instruction that will help students improve their creative-and-critical thinking skills so they can more effectively perform (now) and learn (for later in life).  Ideas for doing this are explored in a website – Using Design Process for Problem Solving and Education – that is an extension of my PhD work, which was...

a unifying synthesis of ideas (mainly from scientists and philosophers, but also from sociologists, psychologists, historians, educators, and myself) into a model of scientific method, and an application of this model for the integrative analysis of a creative classroom in which students solved problems by using science-inquiry.  You can see an overview/summary for both parts — for the model of science, and then using this model to analyze instruction so we can design education that is more effective — in a Table of Contents that may have set a record for the longest T-of-C in a doctoral dissertation.   Also, I juggled during its oral defense (why?), and that may not happen very often.    :<)

BA in Chemistry, University of California, Irvine
MS in Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle
MA in History of Science, Univ of Wisconsin, Madison
PhD in Curriculum & Instruction, U of Wisconsin, Madison

        my academic history (on a road less traveled):
        Intellectually, I've been productive due to inherited intelligence, developing this potential through education (formal & informal), and hard work.*  But professionally, I've followed a “road less traveled” instead of the typical academic path.  What happened? As a chemistry major, I enjoyed learning and did well, getting two American Chemical Society "best student" awards (for all high schools of Orange County, CA, and later for undergrads at U.C. Irvine) and received a fellowship for graduate study from the National Science Foundation.  But during graduate school at my first UW, for various reasons — mainly academic immaturity (playing too much and not studying enough) and an incomplete mental awakening (I discovered creativity but not discipline & commitment) and an intellectual preference for generalization (instead of the specialization expected in grad school for science) — I decided to not pursue a career in research chemistry.
       * This combination has allowed academic awards & fellowships, 800s (highest possible) in GRE Exams for Math & Verbal, and high intellectual productivity.
       After leaving graduate school, I traveled and worked and played, along with lots of reading & thinking, and developed a passion for communicating ideas through writing.*   Later, I enrolled in the History of Science program at the University of Wisconsin, but never felt like a historian, even though I enjoy history and liked the historians at UW;  during our first semester a fellow grad student began a sentence, "We historians think that...", and my internal response was “what an interesting concept, WE historians.”  But since high school I had been teaching occasionally, and thinking about the process of thinking, so when I entered the Science Education program at UW the concept of “we educators” struck a resonant chord in me;  it felt natural, was intellectually stimulating, and has provided the freedom and flexibility to pursue my continuing generalist interests.
       * This "passion for... writing" has been a major influence in my life — and I've invested lots of time in writing — from 1975 until now.

        teaching experience:  mostly chemistry & physics, but also problem-solving strategies, ESL, tennis, juggling, music improvising & theory, ballroom dancing;  mostly in classes but also in other ways, including summertime "chemistry camps" and by tutoring (in physics, chemistry, calculus);
        special interests in education:  helping students improve their thinking skills (creatively generating & critically evaluating ideas,...) and the process we use for solving problems in science & design;  visual representations of ideas, and teaching scientific concepts;
        favorite movieIt's a Wonderful Life, partly for its artistic value (plot, dialogue, acting,...) but mainly for the message:  Each of us affects other people, and life is better if we affect others in ways that are beneficial for them, that help them become better people who are developing their full potential, living in ways that are beneficial for others, and enjoying life.

        I have mixed feelings about the results of my road less traveled.
        Intellectually, I've been highly productive.  Professionally, I haven't followed the standard path.  The result of this combination is that, despite developing lots of great ideas in a wide range of areas, so far these ideas aren't widely known or used, and my life doesn't summarize well on a curriculum vitae.*  This is partly because instead of writing for scholarly journals or in books, during the past two decades I've focused on writing for the web, which I think can be (when all things are considered) a superior way to communicate ideas, but unfortunately web-writing doesn't get much credit among scholars.  A more general explanation is that, basically, I haven't been a skilled “salesman” for my ideas.  Although the product is strong, the marketing has been weak.  My actual intellectual productivity has been high, but the perception of productivity (by others) has been low.  This contrast between reality and perception is frustrating, but I think it's temporary, and in the future my work will be more widely used.
       * For example, when people see me at UW they sometimes ask “are you a professor?” and I say “if I had made different decisions earlier in life, I would be, but I didn't so I'm not.”  Being a professor would be a good match for my abilities, work ethic, and interests (because I'm intelligent, hard working, and enjoy learning, thinking & writing, teaching) but this didn't happen, due to my decisions and the resulting life path.
        On most days, when I wake in the morning I'm free to think about ideas that are wonderfully exciting.  To make money for food and rent, in Madison my paying job was teaching chemistry.  I've enjoyed teaching, but it has taken valuable time from working on education, and I consider education (not teaching) to be my main vocation.  During the spring & summer of 2011 and 2012, and in all seasons since January 2013, I've been working more than full-time (by reading & listening, discussing, thinking, and writing) to develop ideas for education.  This has been a satisfying experience — because I can wake in the morning and continue working on ideas from the previous day (and week, month,...) which allows “mental momentum” that is useful in many ways — and these have been times of high productivity.  In the future I hope to get a full-time paid job working cooperatively with other educators in creative collaborations, to actualize our ideas (mine and theirs) by converting these ideas into action, with the goal of improving education by helping students learn valuable ideas-and-skills more effectively.

My twitter-profile for @DTprocess — "educator (PhD in C&I) using model of creative/critical Design-Thinking Process [= DTprocess] for Education + bike, juggle, dance, improv, sport-science, ESL" (links for these are below)* — includes an aerial view of Madison.

Using Design Process for Problem Solving & Education , 
Building Bridges to improve Confidence, Motivation, Transfer ,
plus Accurate Understanding and Respectful Attitudes and 
why so many people respected and loved my sister, Caryl ; 
stories (welding, Cliffs Notes, joy of science) and a portfolio. 

* Musical Improvisation & Theory & Power Tools for Physics
& how I didn't learn to ski (and then did, by using an insight)
and teaching ESL & Ballroom Dancing (transfer) & Juggling
plus a Juggling Video-and-Photos   ( Arts & Sports )   C.V.
a younger Satchel Paige Age (slowing the rate of slowdown),
links for many topics in art-science and sport-science (from
a young age I've enjoyed playing & watching many sports).


This page, by Craig Rusbult (,
( everything in my website is Copyright © by Craig Rusbult )

The cartoon is by Frank Clark (he also drew skiing and tree-cutting) from 1982,
who (many years later) is now Creative Director of Square Tomato Advertising in Seattle.