A point about micro

If you haven’t studied microeconomics and you’re a strong conservative, studying microeconomics will probably make you a more moderate conservative. If you haven’t studied microeconomics and you’re a strong progressive, studying microeconomics will probably make you a more moderate progressive.

At least, that’s the experience of past micro students. This semester, let me know how it seems to you. (And if you’re adventurous, take the challenge posed by this economist.)

Inspired by Socrates: ECON 345

When I teach Industrial Organization (ECON 345), I use the Socratic method. Named after the Greek philosopher Socrates, this method involves getting to the bottom of a logical puzzle as the instructor asks questions and reacts to student answers. Some students find the Socratic method intimidating, but most of my past ECON 345 students have found it liberating. I’m proud of ECON 345 alumni, some of whom have gone to to achieve distinction in the fields of law, public policy and consulting.

The power of econometrics

In econometrics class at 8 a.m.

When I teach econometrics it’s fun (really!), but there’s a lot of power in econometrics for good or ill. Econometrics can be used honestly to study and understand the material world (my favorite use) or dishonestly to advance the agendas of corrupt politicians, executives and others. At one point the practice of econometrics got so bad that a leading practitioner wrote an article, “Let’s Take the Con Out of Econometrics.” That’s the agenda when I teach this class — no con job, just deliberately seeking the best that econometrics has to offer.

Experimental summer class

Here’s some nice coverage from the College of Business on the experimental ECON 222 class, taught in the summer:

Summer Course Focused on Building Lifetime Wealth

image: /_images/cob/economics/econ-summer-session-2017-1000x600.jpg

SUMMARY: One CoB summer session is focused on building lifetime wealth, using principles of personal financial literacy developed by WISE, as well as advice from radio show host Dave Ramsey. In the photo above, car buyer Dan Peters gets the keys from sales associate Kristine Parisi after a simulated auto sales negotiation in the course.

Contributed by the Department of Economics

A select group of students at JMU’s College of Business (CoB) is learning how to build lifetime wealth – and help others do the same thing – in a grant-supported experimental class.

The course design and material development were supported by grant funds from the George and Shelley Payne Endowment for Faculty Support in the College of Business. George Payne, of Keswick, Va., is a 1979 CoB graduate.

“This class goes deeper than a traditional personal finance class,” says the course’s instructor, economics professor William C. Wood. “It shows students the principles of wealth building but also qualifies them to tutor high school students in personal finance through a nationally standardized test.”

As part of the class, students are taking the national WISE test in personal financial literacy – a standardized test developed by the New York-based nonprofit Working in Support of Education.

“Students took a standardized pre-test on day one, and they’ll take the full test as a post-test on final exam day,” Wood says. “We can compare scores and see how much they’ve learned.”

Students who pass the test as WISE-certified will be fully qualified to serve as volunteer tutors in their home school districts in Virginia or in the area surrounding the university. The WISE test also has been used by JMU to qualify teachers of Virginia’s required high school class in personal finance and economics.

In addition to standard personal finance materials, students are studying the online Gen i Revolution game, for which Wood served as economic content developer. Students play the personal finance game and then submit reviews to be used in a future redesign of the game.

Students also will be reading “Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money,” which offers advice on budgeting, saving money, getting out of debt and investing. Noting that Ramsey often tells callers to his radio show that “debt is dumb,” Wood says the class will explore whether that statement is always true—or if there are circumstances in which it may be wise to take on debt to finance appreciating or essential purchases such as homes, education or cars.

“Dave’s down-home advice is often at odds with traditional personal finance,” Wood says. “In this class we’re studying why down-home advice may actually beat more sophisticated financial plans.”

The Capstone

From time to time I teach ECON 488, Senior Capstone Seminar in Economics. This is the class that’s designed to bring together our economics majors’ knowledge in one last class before they graduate. When I was first assigned to teach the class, I knew that it was important to have our students write — but what kind of writing assignment? The traditional seminar paper is long and high-stakes. The one-minute paper is too small. But the upper blogosphere — sites such as Marginal Revolution and Econbrowser — would be perfect! So I designed the writing assignments to take on the form of posts to the upper blogosphere in economics. Students’ posts, under assumed names, appear at our class site, econ488.com. I invite you to have a look.

Econometrics and IO

This fall I lucked into a great teaching assignment: econometrics and industrial organization. Econometrics is the application of statistical methods to economic relationships, or “economic measurement.” Industrial organization is the study of market structure and economic performance, “everything interesting in micro that’s not labor economics.”

Both fields have been good to me, in that both have led to great research and consulting opportunities. And yes, I’ll miss having first-semester students in my classes this fall (something that always happened when the introductory course was part of my teaching schedule in the fall). But these are two subjects I love, and I’m ready to go!

New high ranking for online MBA!

JMU’s online MBA has received a another prestigious national ranking, this time from Princeton Review. The specific program is an online master’s degree in business administration with an emphasis on information security. Here’s a link to the rating, showing the program ranked 11th nationally: JMU ranked no. 11

The program is a unique blend of online and in-person instruction. Every eight weeks on a Saturday, we turn a Northern Virginia hotel into a miniature JMU. In the morning, students come in and complete class presentations or exams for the class they’re finishing, and then break for lunch, and then start the next class. Then they scatter back to their home locations and the class meets online for eight weeks, before another Saturday in Northern Virginia starts the cycle again. In just over two years, the students have an MBA.

I was one of the original instructors when the program started in 2001 and have continued to develop print and video materials for the program since then. We have a great team teaching the online MBA and I’m proud to be part of it!

(Note that this program was rated no. 12 nationally by U.S. News & World Report.)