(Reprinted in part with permission from WVU Today 2/25/2013)

The appreciation for Randy Jackson is visible in his office, which is filled with trinkets of gratitude from international colleagues. His Mountaineer pride is also displayed, in a picture that hangs on the wall of his WVU-themed Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Jackson is a professor of geography and director of WVU’s Regional Research Institute. He had a humble beginning to his studies in economic geography, starting out at the University of Illinois before finding his way to WVU in 2002.

“I got interested in economic geography when I had a job driving a truck, a tractor trailer, coast to coast,” Jackson said. “I was in the habit of stopping at every rest area and fueling station and picking up a newspaper. When I read the newspapers, it became apparent pretty quickly that people in different parts of the country were interested in different things on the same day.”

The experience led to a lifelong interest in geography.

While getting his undergrad degree at the University of Illinois, Jackson became interested in theoretical and methodological debate and the nature of a particular impact assessment model. One of the people in that debate happened to be the current director of the Regional Research Institute. Jackson said that he didn’t think anything of it at the time, but he had become aware of the Regional Research Institute early on in his academic studies.

“In his role as director of the Regional Research Institute at WVU he has recruited an excellent group of scholars and graduate students that have greatly enhanced the reputation of RRI and generated additional external funding,” said James Lesage, of Texas State University.

WVU has given Jackson the unique opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary environment. On any given day, he could be working with geographers, resource economists, economists, foresters or engineers.

“He has helped promote a model of research that begins with elegant, relevant theory through to model design, data assembly and implementation and finally to dissemination – not just in the academic press but in public forums and news media,” said Geoffrey Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois.