Teaching and Pedagogy
This is one of my favorite courses to teach, in part because of the MacroJournal project I use each semester. This is a simple, low time-cost (for the professor), and low stakes (for the student) way to help turn students into practicioners. Approximately every other week, I ask students to collect primary data on 3 broad categories: the overall economy, labor market, and inflation. They then must make an assessment of whether this category is getting better, worse, or neither. The catch is they can only use data released during that week. So, one week they may be able to use the Employment Situation from the BLS, but in subsequent weeks they may need to use jobless claims, retail sales, or housing starts to make their inferences. This is similar to what Fed researchers do when they prepare the Beige Book. Below, you can see how students' assessments changed throughout the semester during Spring 2022 (one unit on horizontal axis corresponds to approximately two weeks of the semester). The vertical axis is the percentage of students who say an indicator improved minus the percentage of students who say it worsened. One interesting characteristic is the way the overall economy and the labor market seem to be moving in different directions. The labor trend (red line) is consistently above zero, indicating that a higher percentage of students said the labor market was getting better rather than worse. The overall economy seems to be assessed as neutral or getting slightly worse. In past years, students have judged these to move closely together. This is interesting because many economists at the time were puzzled about why the labor market was strong, but GDP was weak. Students saw this too! Students frequently report this as one of the most valuable assignments they've had in college (not just in my class or their major). They are able to talk about this experience and the skills they developed when they are interviewing for jobs and internships.
Federal Reserve Challenge
The College Fed Challenge is an incredibly valuable experiential learning opportunity. At Elon, we've turned this into a 2-credit-hour class because of the intense preparation required to create a presentation. Students have a few weeks each Fall semester to prepare a 15-minute presentation on the state of the economy and make a recommendation for the future direction of monetary policy. This "class" is student-led. There are no exams or lectures. It is an open discussion between students and professors (I co-teach this course with my colleague Vitaliy Strohush). Students take a deep dive into monetary policy and the intricacies of the economy. While they gain important knowledge about economics, they also gain valuable research experience, data and coding experience, and presentation skills. Our team made the national semifinals in 2022 -- one of only 18 teams across the country! If you are interested in trying this, the Eastern Economic Journal has several articles dedicated to the topic. I'm also happy to connect for a discussion.
Read more about the experience from past years: