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Teaching and Mentoring Research of Undergraduate Economics in the ACM

In the wake of the Great Recession, the economics profession was pummeled almost daily in mass media. The core critique excoriated economics curriculum for its abstraction. The critics targeted well-known economists from Harvard, MIT, and Chicago; they demanded to know how economics could be better taught.

Curiously, they never thought to ask the economists that teach it best. A recent ranking of economics programs in 2016 ranked three of the ACM’s 14 member schools in the top 50 programs in the United States (Macalester, Colorado, and Carleton). These are strong results. However, it is our belief that these figures under-represent the strength of economics education within the ACM.

In April of 2018, the project team will host a conference focused on economics programs within the ACM. The two-day event, to be held at Coe College, will have two themes: pedagogical innovation and advancing undergraduate research.

Day one will focus on innovations in teaching. ACM faculty members will present and discuss their best tools, assignments, activities, and practices for generating student engagement and achievement. Day two will focus on fostering, developing, and mentoring undergraduate students through the research process. The program for day two will also include opportunities for undergraduates to present their work and discuss the research process with their ACM colleagues.

The last meeting of the ACM economics faculty occurred in 1997, funded through an ACM professional development grant. Our next meeting is long overdue.

Note: Content below is adapted from the project proposal.

Liberal arts colleges around the country are facing increasingly competitive recruiting environments, more cost-conscious prospective students, and mounting pressure from MOOCs, for-profit institutions, and states schools facing public budget cuts. Higher education is in a period of transition.

This conference is a vehicle to capitalize on this transition period. In doing so, the outcomes of the event will raise the profile of the ACM as a whole and, consequently the profiles of member schools and their economics faculty. It will enhance the brand of economics within the ACM. Importantly, the program creates another venue for student engagement with economics faculty in scholarship, improving the value proposition of attending a four-year liberal arts ACM institution.


The project team has established three goals for the event:

  1. Connect ACM economics faculty members in the pursuit of scholarship on economic education.
  2. Provide opportunities for faculty members (and students) to learn from one another.
  3. Create a conference report/edited volume that demonstrates the depth and breadth of economics education within the ACM.

Largely, we see these goals being met through scholarship outcomes. First, the conference creates an opportunity for faculty to develop collaborative partnerships, particularly around typical core courses. Second, the conference will give students opportunities to engage with students from other ACM programs. Ideally, these interactions too would generate collaborative projects. This opportunity is a benefit to current students, and it creates yet another means of signaling to prospective students that economics within the ACM is a unique, value-added experience.

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