Growth in Undergrad Program Follows Headlines

Author: Economics News

Business is booming in the Department of Economics and Econometrics.

With the recent financial crisis and recession much in the news, rarely has a career in economics seemed so relevant. However, the department’s vibrancy in 2009 also reflects substantial long-term growth in interest from undergraduates.

At the time the department was created in 2003, a total of 193 undergrads were pursuing a major in economics. This past May, 134 seniors graduated with the economics major, and there are 418 students overall in the program in 2009–10.

Richard Jensen, chair of economics and econometrics, expects this promising trend to continue as more students become aware of the department’s revised course offerings and other developments. (That economics will likely keep dominating world headlines won’t hurt either, he says.)

A mix of eight electives in 2009–10 is allowing students to explore economics’ relevance to the social issues and problems of our times, such as those related to the environment, immigration, health care, and financial speculation. These courses also provide students with the opportunity to become familiar with research methods, including forecasting and game theory, that are becoming widely used in the field.

Undergraduates interested in going beyond the requirements of the major and delving even deeper into their studies can apply to enter the economics honors track, whose enrollment has nearly tripled since its inception three years ago. As part of this experience, seniors spend the year working under the guidance of a faculty mentor to complete an honors essay.

The department this year also hosted the second annual Bernoulli Awards, a competition open to Notre Dame undergraduates of any major who have conducted research that uses "statistical methods to analyze an applied problem that is judged important, timely, and original." Prizes range from $5,000 for first to $1,000 for honorable mention, although the faculty panel that reviews submissions makes its decisions based on external criteria and therefore won’t necessarily issue the top or any other award each year.

Winners in 2009 were Thomas Foote (first place) for his study of economic integration and the effectiveness of regional agreements in Africa and Richard Chapman (honorable mention) for his examination of the impact of accountability protocols, such as high-stakes testing, on student achievement.

Elective Courses Offered in 2009–10

Environmental Economics
Health Economics
Forecasting for Economics and Business
Monetary Policy
Bubbles, Crises, and Speculative Attacks
Game Theory
Topics in the Development of the American Labor Force
Advanced Microeconomics Theory