Art Markman

The leader of a “think-and-do” tank that researches rural economies will deliver the final session and closing remarks of Radically Rural this year.

Art Markman, 53, became executive director of the IC2 Institute at University of Texas at Austin last December and reshaped its mission to focus on entrepreneurship in rural and small cities.

 When Markman enrolled at Brown University as an undergrad, he had no idea what his plans were.

“I grew up around accountants, lawyers and businesspeople because most of my friends’ parents and my parents’ friends were professionals,” he says.

While Markman wasn’t sure if it was the right path, he narrowed his choices to economics or physics; the first seemed like a good background for a business career, and the latter was a subject he liked in school. But after taking courses in both, he realized they weren’t a good fit.

“Ultimately, I discovered that the classes I enjoyed all centered (on) people’s minds, and so I ended up declaring a major in cognitive science,” he says.

Over the next few years, Markman conducted some research with a professor in that department and discovered a love for the university environment.

He earned his bachelor’s in cognitive science in 1988 and got a doctorate in psychology from the University of Illinois four years later.

“After that, I worked at Northwestern [University] for two years, Columbia University for five years, and took a job in the psychology department at the University of Texas at Austin in 1998, where I have been working ever since.”

There, Markman founded a program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations, which brings the humanities, social sciences and behavioral sciences to people in business, government, nonprofit organizations and the military. Markman underscored the responsibility of universities to translate their research for the broader community, whether that involves public outreach or programs to engage people in that research more directly.

“The IC2 Institute is ideally placed at the junction between the university and the business world to translate work from a wide range of areas into programs that can benefit communities,” he says.

For decades, the Institute played a role in helping urban areas commercialize technologies developed from university and corporate research, he explains.

Now the organization’s new focus will explore rural business ecosystems. In translating the research, Markman says, the Institute can offer guidance to those communities on how to support entrepreneurs and start-ups “while also benefiting from larger companies that may want to make a home outside of urban corridors.”

Outside of his work, Markman co-hosts a radio show and podcast, “Two Guys on Your Head.” He likens it to NPR’s Car Talk, “only about the mind rather than old Toyotas.” Together with Bob Duke and producer Rebecca McInroy, the show tackles how research in psychology affects people’s lives, from how to grieve or deal with a job loss to why people love cat videos.

He’s also a musician, since taking up the saxophone in his mid-30s.

“I had played the piano as a kid, and wanted to get back into playing music without having to re-learn many of the skills I had lost on the piano,” he says.

Markman plays saxophone in a ska band called Phineas Gage. “Ska” is a Jamaican precursor to reggae that is upbeat and horn-heavy.

Markman, who was born in New Jersey, now lives in Austin with his wife and their two dogs. They have three sons in their 20s who have all moved to California for their work. T

Sierra Hubbard is a staff writer with The Keene Sentinel.