O’Neill Assistant Professor Christian Buerger was attending school in East Germany when the Berlin Wall was torn down and Germany was reunified.
“The transitional period that followed afterward was extremely difficult,” he recalls.
During that time, everyday life began to change quickly for Buerger and the reunification brought new challenges for him and his family. The school he attended in East Germany didn’t offer the classes he needed to take to attend college. But after the West German system of school choice was implemented, his family was able to find a better setting for him. But even that wasn’t without its challenges.
“The bus rides were really long—about an hour,” he admits “But changing schools was the best choice I ever made.”
Finding a better school wasn’t the only challenge his family faced when he was young. His parents only earned a fraction of the wages the same job would have paid in the West—something that changed slowly and not until he had earned his Ph.D. from Syracuse University more than two decades later.
These experiences had a significant impact on his life’s trajectory, both personally and professionally. They’re what led him to research school choice and public finance and eventually brought him to the O’Neill School.
“O’Neill IUPUI is in the state capitol,” he explains. “The financial decisions are made here, the state legislature is here, almost across the street. Indianapolis also had the first mayor to charter schools in the United States.”
Buerger wanted to research those subjects without having to rely on funding from advocacy organizations while also staying grounded by teaching in the classroom.
What do you enjoy about teaching at O’Neill?
“Teaching is important because it keeps you out of the ivory tower. It also helps when you’re trying to be on the frontier of knowledge. Students help with that because they keep you grounded, and they are always interested in new and hot topics.”
“If I can see that students have learned something, that is very fulfilling. If they start to think differently once they get further along in the class, that is great. You get to see them develop both personally and professionally. I’m very committed to teaching and learning, and I think we’re all extremely committed to that here at O’Neill.”
Why should students attend O’Neill?
“We have really good faculty at O’Neill who do interesting research and know what they’re talking about. They’re on that frontier of knowledge. So, students get introduced to cutting-edge research in all kinds of fields. Students are also not getting lost in the classroom. We have small class sizes and I know all my students by name. Small class sizes also allow students to get to know each other. Lastly, being in the state capitol means our students can easily find internships and opportunities that may be harder to come by in other places.”