Arthur C. Brooks ’94
Arthur C. Brooks can tell you about personal transformation.
In just five years, he went from being the associate principal French hornist for the City Orchestra of Barcelona to become a maestro of a different kind, earning his PhD in policy analysis and becoming a widely-published college professor. Brooks would eventually emerge as one of the country's leading social scientists focusing on the relationship between culture, economics and politics.
In 2009, he became the 11th president of the American Enterprise Institute, the independent, conservative think tank founded in 1943. His journey began in 1993, when Brooks left the orchestra to complete his bachelor's degree at Thomas Edison State College.
“While I was still performing in the orchestra, I began banking previously earned college credits toward a BA degree in economics at Thomas Edison State College,” recalled Brooks. “It was the most efficient way I could find of pooling my previously earned college credits.”
After earning a few more credits via testing, Brooks received his BA in economics from the College in 1994.
“Thomas Edison State College's academic model was unique and useful to me, and it was the only effective way I could have earned my bachelor's degree,” said Brooks. “At the time, sitting in a classroom for me was incompatible with any meaningful existence.”
After graduating from Thomas Edison State College, Brooks went on to earn his a master's degree in economics from Florida Atlantic University and both a master's in philosophy and PhD in policy analysis from the Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif.
Brooks remains modest about his current post as president of the American Enterprise Institute, where he orchestrates movements vastly different than those from his Barcelona days. Newt Gingrich, Lynn V. Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz are among the institute's 90 senior fellows and scholars who are Brooks' colleagues.
The opportunity to serve as president of the American Enterprise Institute came in mid-2008 at a time when Brooks was being pulled in many directions. He was already the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a visiting scholar for the American Enterprise Institute. Brooks had also already proven his mettle as a successful editor, columnist, author and social pundit, serving as a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal.
In addition, several members of his congressional district of Syracuse, N.Y., were pressing him to run for Congress and, at the same time, he was being offered a deanship. The American Enterprise Institute proved to be the most attractive option for Brooks, who assumed its presidency in January 2009.
“Everyone should have a career that sings to them, though many people never achieve that,” he said. “Whether it is through retraining or going back to college, the remedy is easier than people realize and the payoff is a huge, wonderful thing. The answer for me was in my single decision to complete my college degree.”
Brooks is the author of eight books, including Who Really Cares, Gross National Happiness, and the textbook, Social Entrepreneurship. His latest book is The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America's Future.