Economics adds advanced core classes

Both advanced courses will cover the same economic theory taught in the current offerings, according to Associate Professor of Economics Steven Rivkin, chair of the department. Students will be expected to learn more of this theory from their texts than in the regular classes, however, allowing professors to spend more time on applications in the classroom.

“This fits in with the work of the special committee [on Amherst education] which has found that students come in with a range of quantitative preparation,” Rivkin said.

Professor of Economics Geoff Woglom noted that he thinks this range is increasing. “It has been my experience that I have two audiences whose educational needs I am trying to meet. The first audience gets the material relatively quickly and the other audience needs to spend more time going over the models,” Woglom said.

Rivkin added that splitting the courses is intended to address differences in preparation and interest, not diverging post-undergraduate plans.

Woglom emphasized this point. “[Advanced macroeconomics] will show students how economics can be used, but it is an undergraduate course. It is not just a course for students who are interest[ed] in going to grad school,” he said.

Although economics majors will benefit from smaller intermediate classes, the economics department will have fewer professors to teach Economics 11, the introductory course that many non-majors take each semester. Currently, Economics 11 meets in sections of no more than 22 students, three times a week, and as a large lecture once a week. Next year, the course will be predominantly a lecture one. Professor of Economics Frank Westhoff expressed concern over the changes Economics 11 will undergo. “We are putting more emphasis on majors, and less emphasis on the general study body,” he said. “[Economics 11] has been our service course to the general College community, and we are clearly reorganizing our priorities.”

Advanced macro has a prerequisite of Math 12: Intermediate Calculus and advanced micro will require Math 13: Multivariable Calculus. Both require Economics 11. Students can also be admitted to either course with the consent of the instructor.

In addition, the economics department will require that economics majors take one upper level elective. The class of 2005 is exempt from the requirement.

Rivkin noted that the department will track enrollments over the next couple of years and evaluate the changes.

Rivkin said that students who want to write an honors thesis will be encouraged to take the advanced class, but all students will still be eligible to write a thesis.

Woglom said he expects those who take the advanced classes and see more application of theory will naturally be more interested in writing a thesis.