Students enrolled in the Scripps College class Incentives Matter: The Economics of Gender and Choice were surprised early this semester with news of the class’s cancellation. Associate Professor of Economics Sean Flynn, who would have taught the class alongside Professor of Art Nancy Macko, will be taking the semester off to focus on his campaign for the United States House of Representatives.
Flynn will be challenging incumbent representative Pete Aguilar. Both men are running as Republicans. Described by economics professor Kerry Odell as “whip-smart,” Flynn was added to the National Republican Congressional Committee's “On the Radar” list for its Young Guns program on Feb. 18. According to its website, Young Guns is a multilevel program meant to build the campaigns of congressional candidates that “embody the principles of the House Republican Conference and show promise of running a successful campaign.”
Flynn, who hopes to reform America’s healthcare system and reduce spending, said that politics are a “boyhood dream.” He also aims to alleviate the problem of student debt. Describing the current climate surrounding student loans as “unconscionable,” he credits his time teaching and seeing his students accumulate student debt as being the primary motivation for his campaign.
“Everyone wants opportunity for the poor and the disadvantaged, but how much opportunity is there if they're threatened with a $60,000 a year bill?” Flynn said. “It's just offensive to me, as an American and as a human being, and we don't have to be doing this. It's the result of stupid government policy.”
Colleagues and students, though hesitating on his specific policies, praised Flynn’s character. Scripps art professor Nancy Macko invited Flynn to teach alongside her immediately after meeting him. (The two were set to teach a course this semester entitled Incentives Matter: The Economics of Gender and Choice.) She remembers being impressed by his confidence to speak up despite being a junior professor at the time.
“He's very charismatic, he's very engaging, he's very nice-looking and he's very accessible. And he's also very smart,” Macko said. She also praised his skill in communicating complex ideas. The thing that's particular about Sean is that he really connects with people…he can meet people on any level,” Macko said.
In addition, she admired his investment in learning about women’s issues, recalling that he once told her, “I want to be the Scripps College congressional representative!” and requested that she inform him about women’s issues.
Regarding Flynn’s plan for healthcare, Macko was slightly skeptical.
“He's convinced that we could apply [Singapore’s healthcare system] in the United States, despite the fact that Singapore is small and we're huge,” Macko said. “But this is—I think—part of what was compelling him to run for Congress, because he really wanted to get the attention of people and he thinks he has a solution.”
Nonetheless, Macko fully backs her colleague’s Congressional bid and encouraged him to pursue it when he was choosing between his campaign and his position at the College. She recounts that the letter he wrote to his almost-students was gracious and apologetic to the point that there was “no way anybody could have been mad at him.”
“He's a heart person,” Macko said.
Will Thorson PZ ’16, who has taken Macroeconomics and Behavioral Economics with Flynn, considers Flynn one of the best professors he’s had at the Claremont Colleges.
“It was the most strange and exciting thing I've ever heard,” Thorson said about learning that Flynn would be running for Congress.
Thorson also said that he admires Flynn’s enthusiasm and ability to communicate difficult concepts.
“I think that Sean has the ability to look through a problem and see it from a very in-depth economic perspective with a wide range of additional skills and backgrounds and information that not many other people have,” Thorson said. “I think that's something that's very central and unique to him and his energy and his power to want to explain it to other people is a skill that I feel could be so beneficial to people that are willing to listen.”