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Professor Couples | Hardman and Ioannides share stories of overlapping work and love life

Published: Thursday, February 14, 2008

Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 12:08

As students narrow down their academic fields of interest, they may be subconsciously selecting a pool of potential future spouses at the same time.

For Anna Hardman and Yannis Ioannides, both faculty members in the Tufts Department of Economics, an overlapping interest in economics created a chance meeting more than three decades ago.

Hardman, who is British, was working for a consulting firm in Greece at the time, while Ioannides, a Greek citizen, was taking a semester's leave from his teaching position at Brown University to complete his required service in the Greek military. The two had mutual friends from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who, while on sabbatical in Athens, hosted a party, inviting the two then-strangers.

According to Hardman, who now teaches courses at Tufts on international migration, she was prompted to spark up a conversation with Ioannides because she'd heard he was also doing migration work.

Less than two years later, the couple was married.

"Yannis [later] quit doing work on migration," Hardman said. "But not until after it was an excuse for us to meet and talk."

Hardman said the chances were slim that the two would be brought together, and that she feels lucky as a result.

"When you think of the chances of the two of us meeting - he was from a completely different part of the world, he did grad school at Stanford, I was at MIT. I was in Greece, and he was in California and then in Boston," she said. "I think we're incredibly lucky to have met."

The economists were married in a courthouse in Providence, R.I. Hardman finished her doctorate at MIT, while Ioannides taught at Brown and later at Boston University.Eventually, after spending time living once again in Ioannides' native Greece, they settled in Blacksburg, Virginia to begin teaching at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

In this rural town of less than 30,000 people, the couple discovered the benefits of being married.

"Neither of us on our own would have gone to Blacksburg, but the two of us together, it was a good thing to do," Ioannides said. "This was a small, very isolated college town … [where] for many people, it's hard to organize one's life, certainly as a single person. So clearly in that sense … being a couple is a tremendous advantage."

While their marriage has been a deciding factor in some career choices, the two said they do not look back at their relocations with any regret.

"You make choices," Hardman said. "I'm happy with the choices we've made. I don't think I would call them sacrifices - that would imply that you were looking back and thinking that it was a hardship ... We moved to Virginia, a place where we didn't know anyone. And I think we both feel we gained a lot from that."

After completing their time at Virginia Tech, the couple eventually traveled back to the Boston area in 1995 after being offered positions in the Department of Economics at Tufts.

In their 13 years on the Hill, the two have carved individual niches in both the field of economics and the department, with Ioannides serving as the Max and Herta Neubauer Chair and Hardman focusing on urban economics and migration topics.

While Hardman and Ioannides complete the majority of their work on different topics, the two have collaborated in the past, a task that requires a balance of personal and professional correspondence.

"It was fun," Hardman said. "It's also hard work."

Ioannides agreed, citing the complications associated with a spouse-colleague relationship. "It's harder to do research with your spouse because, you know, not all collaborations go well. Things are complicated; each one is held up by other things. And so when you work with someone else with whom you're not so closely related … "

"It's easier," Hardman continued. "We're careful."

Noting that the economics department at Tufts is "used to couples," Hardman and Ioannides acknowledged the field's potential to facilitate marriages within it. "Economics is definitely a field where there are a lot of people who are married to other economists," Hardman said. "And perhaps it's partly because it's a field that's broad enough that each person can have their own territory."

Requiring a common core of knowledge and language and branching out into diverse subfields, economics allows both Hardman and Ioannides to work with different students. While the two recently worked together with a student on his honors thesis, they typically do not share students.

"The courses don't naturally intersect," Ioannides said.

"I would say we don't get that many overlapping students," Hardman added. "In 10, 12 years, not very many.

With busy academic lives, the couple uses the commute from their home in Lincoln, Mass. for discussion.

"Definitely since the price of gasoline has gone up, and also since we've not had a kid at home, we're commuting together much more of the time than we used to, like good rational economists," Hardman said. "Commuting is actually a good time for talking."

While Ioannides said that he considers his academic work a hobby, the couple finds time to pursue other interests outside of the classroom, including gardening, cross country skiing and reading in their home. They also try to keep up with their 23-year-old son, who is working for the Louisiana Recovery Authority in Baton Rouge.

And while the classroom doesn't often bring the couple together, the kitchen is a different story. "I love to cook," Hardman said. "We do that together … it's a real collective."

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