The Jeep was totaled. It sat in the body shop owned by Jason Ridge’s father, who told him if he wanted a car to drive – a teenage rite of passage – he better get to work.
At 14, he couldn’t legally drive by himself, but the dream was there as he spent evenings and weekends restoring the Jeep, including replacing the car’s battered side. As his 16th birthday neared, he furiously worked at getting it operable.
And he did. The old, wrecked blue Jeep CJ7 was now repaired and painted green. Ridge drove it around the Oklahoma panhandle town of Hooker, where he grew up, and kept it throughout high school.
His father’s body shop and an accompanying wrecking service served as Ridge’s introduction to the business world – the one that eventually led him to teach undergraduate management courses at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, which he began doing in summer 2015 when he began his assistant professorship.
Ridge’s journey to management was a gradual one, however. As an Oklahoma State University student, he explored majoring in architecture before changing over to business, eventually earning a master’s degree with plans of a career in health care. He worked in a home for the mentally disabled and, later, at a general hospital in Stillwater when he decided he wanted to be a management professor and teach the concepts that fascinated him. “I liked the idea of strategy,” he says.
After earning his Ph.D. in business administration with a strategic management concentration, Ridge taught at Clemson for four years, but the draw to be closer to home (his wife is from Fort Smith) and his never-ending quest to land a spot among Walton faculty never waned. They were his people – ones with research interests in line with his.
Those interests include corporate lobbying and how and why corporations engage in political activity. Related research involves studying lobbying activities by corporations when members of Congress are stockholders. Ridge says he has noticed that corporations tend to spend less on lobbying when they know their representatives have stock in the companies.
Ridge also studies the various ways companies compensate their employees and how that affects the corporation as a whole. For example, if everyone is paid the same, is the incentive for advancement gone?
Ridge says he’s also energized in the classroom, especially when he sees the results of his teaching. “I like whenever you get students who really get into it,” he says.
And long gone are the days of his Jeep and cruising around town. Instead, when he’s not at Walton, he’s home, spending time with his wife and three children, who range from 4 to 9 years old.
Walton is making this transition to his new job pleasant, Ridge says.
“Everyone is just so friendly,” he says. “It’s a very collegial atmosphere.”