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July 2011

University To Boost Economics Department: Will Undergraduate Experience Follow?

Although I'm in an unabashed lifelong love affair with Ezra's university, I'll let you in on a little secret: for some disciplines, particularly in the social sciences, and especially in economics, I don't think Cornell is necessarily the best place to spend four years of study.

Of course, however, my own experience proves an exception to the rule: as an ILR major interested in labor economics and policy, I had unparalleled access to prominent faculty, working with many of them throughout my undergraduate years. This has helped me immensely in my career and life, probably much more so than I would have experienced at other colleges, and I'll be forever grateful.

But I found that for the average, relatively disinterested economics student at Cornell, especially for somebody in the College of Arts and Sciences, the classes were all too easy to coast by in, and the faculty didn't really pay all that much attention to academic advising or undergraduate instruction. Which was odd, because it's one of the largest majors in the Arts College. Even for a motivated student looking to engage with economics faculty, it would be relatively easy to slip through the cracks -- unlike virtually every discipline at Cornell -- from Spanish to computer science, hotel management to natural resources. And this is important because when the time comes for economics students to go on the job market, I feel that they're a bit behind some of their peers at other colleges.

Part of this reflected a function of Cornell's decentralized economics faculty -- spread out across many different undergraduate colleges -- each fighting for a piece of the tuition revenue. In many ways, this hindered the development of the Cornell economics department as a premier place to study the dismal science -- a student who wanted to take labor economics, resource economics, public finance, or health care economics courses would often have to go shopping around other college's classes. And these classes would often be "dumbed down" so to speak -- not in terms of the quality of the teaching or the education, but in terms of the economic rigor with which the material was taught, so as to be accessible to people studying things like human development or organizational behavior without backgrounds in differential calculus or econometrics.

But hopefully all that will change with the announcement Cornell has made today:

Provost Kent Fuchs has announced the formation of a new universitywide economics department that will bring together strengths in economics from across the university's colleges and schools into one academic unit.

The new Cornell Department of Economics combines all economics faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and all labor economists from the ILR School. A small number of senior professors from the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the College of Human Ecology's Department of Policy Analysis and Management (PAM) will have joint appointments.

"This is an important and exciting new development for Cornell," said Fuchs. "Combining the world-class economists from ILR and Arts and Sciences into a new economics department will bring increased opportunities for collaboration".

One of the most damning pieces of evidence highlighting the fact that the economics faculty at Cornell just didn't care about undergraduates back in my day was the way economics majors were treated at graduation. Whereas virtually every other major/field/discipline had a diploma/awards ceremony for graduating seniors to attend with their families, the economics faculty simply left diplomas in a box outside of Uris Hall. Somebody in the economics department should do a cost/benefit analysis on that to see whether or not that will encourage or discourage lifelong alumni giving back to the department.

So hopefully this announcement is a start. It will hopefully improve not only the quality of the department from a research perspective, but also the quality of the teaching and the educational experience for undergraduates. If the provost and the department chair is serious about undergraduate education he will invest in economics advising and support staff for students as well, similar to what occurs for biology majors. And finally, maybe it'll result in the creation of a University-wide economics minor, open to students across all seven undergraduate colleges.

Matthew Nagowski | July 20, 2011 (#)

GQ Somehow Considers Cornell To Be Douchiest College?

Apparently they think that the entire campus is filled with little Andy Bernards, when it's pretty obvious that only three-quarters five-sixths of the student body is in an a capella group. So there!

The Douchiest Colleges in America: 2011 Edition: Humor: GQ:

If You Could Read the Thought Bubble Over Campus: You know what I'm sick of hearing? That Cornell isn't really Ivy League! What the fuck! I paid my $160K! Don't treat me like I went to the University of Michigan. Honestly, is it because no presidents went here? Well, choke on this, you pretentious eating-club ass wipes: Janet Reno! Paul Wolfowitz! Alan mutha-fuzzin' Keyes (transferred to Harvard, '70)! Is it because all anyone ever talks about is how people go to Cornell and then kill themselves? It's a myth! Check the numbers! Or maybe you can't because you weren't required to take any math classes at Brown! Is it because there's a part of the school that's actually a state school, where you can get three faux Ivy League credits for taking Maple Syrup Production and Beekeeping? I didn't attend the Ag School! I took courses from famous professors just like all you non-student-loan-owing ass hats at Yale and Harvard who keep telling me you'll keep my internship application "on file." You know what? Keep the Penn guy's application on file! Like he went to an Ivy League school. Oh, okay, make the hotel joke. Right, I got my degree from Cornell, and now I'm a bellhop. Hahahahaha! That's hilarious. I haven't heard that before. Fuck you, Columbia. Your football team sucks. Go Big Red! (Is it because our mascot is a "Big Red"?)

Obviously they've never been to Duke. But clearly they know some of us are insecure. Or something.

Matthew Nagowski | July 20, 2011 (#)

Just Stop It, Now

You would think that a string of horrifying accidental gorge deaths would put a bit of a hamper on students and their thrill-seeking ways. But no:

At about 5 p.m. Sunday Ithaca Police were called to the Six Mile Creek Natural Area on Giles Street. Witnesses said a 17-year-old boy had been climbing the walls of an abandoned water treatment plant and lost his hold falling to the rocky water below. After the teen was stabilized, he was pulled from the gorge, and flown to a hospital...

Meanwhile, a Cornell University student is still recovering after falling from Ithaca Falls on Saturday. Officials at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pennsylvania say Eric Gordon, 20, is currently in fair condition.

Gordon seriously injured his head, neck, and back after losing his footing and falling 50 to 60 feet into the pool below.

Be careful kids.

Matthew Nagowski | July 19, 2011 (#)

Come To Ithaca

With apologies for the complete lack of posting in the past month, I just got back from a summer sojourn to Ithaca for a faculty member's wedding on Seneca Lake. Complete with Finger Lakes Reisling, a drum circle, and a twilight swim, the weekend was exquisite, and made me miss Ithaca summers dearly. The weekend also reverberated with the following quote, with a kudos to Mr. Corey Earle for finding it:

If a person is looking for an ideal place to reside where he can enjoy all the beauties of nature, breathe the atmosphere of intellectual refinement, have nearly all the pleasures that can be bought in the largest cities…, he should come to Ithaca.

– Frank Gannett ‘98 in a 1902 editorial for the Ithaca Daily News

Matthew Nagowski | July 17, 2011 (#)

Other Recent Posts

-- WSJ: Cornell Wins NYC Tech Campus Bid (EBilmes)

-- Barrier Update: City Approves Nets (DJost)

-- Big Red Cymbal Guy (Nagowski)

-- New York Times Survey on Campus Recruiting is Flawed (KScott)

-- Barrier Update: Legal precedent suggests City of Ithaca will not be held liable for gorge suicide (DJost)

-- Despite MSG Loss, Big Potential for Big Red Hockey (EBilmes)

-- City Council Will Vote on Suicide Nets (DJost)

-- An Encounter on the Upper East Side (Nagowski)

-- Showing Off Your School Spirit (Nagowski)

-- Chipotle Ithaca? (KScott)

-- Cornell at the ING NYC Marathon (KScott)

-- Crossing Over a Fine Line: Commercial Activity on Campus (KScott)

-- Milstein's Downfall (Nagowski)

-- Can any Cornell-associated organization really be independent of the University? (Nagowski)

-- Slope Media Revisited (EBilmes)

-- Slope Media Group Approved for Byline Funding (KScott)

-- Occupy AEM? (KScott)

-- New campus pub to be good for both Greeks and non-Greeks (Nagowski)

-- Gagging the Election (Nagowski)

-- The Changing Structure of Rush Week (Nagowski)

-- Ivy League Humility in the Midwest (EBilmes)

-- Of Median Grades and Economics Minors (Nagowski)

-- Homecoming Recap (Nagowski)

-- My Cornell Bookshelf (Nagowski)

-- The Sun's Opinion Section Has Suddenly Gotten Good (Nagowski)

-- Remembering the 11th (Nagowski)

-- Cornellian Tapped as Top Economic Advisor (Nagowski)

-- Cutting Pledging, and the Good Which Comes With It (EBilmes)

-- Why Cornell Should Not Close Fall Creek Gorge (Nagowski)

-- Welcome to the Class of 2015 (Nagowski)