#1 Macroeconomics Program

Faculty Spotlight on Gareth Green, chair of economics

Written by Tina Potterf
Photography by Sy Bean
January 15, 2014
“Research is formalized curiosity,” a quote by writer Zora Neale Hurston, is tacked to the door outside the office of Gareth Green of the Albers School of Business and Economics.

When asked about the quote, Green says, “research is learning and learning is fueled by curiosity, which I think is a critical trait to nurture in students.” Makes sense, since Associate Professor Green happens to chair the economics department that oversees a program with national acclaim.
In June, Bloomberg BusinessWeek named Albers’ macroeconomics program #1 in the country.

The ranking, notes Green, reflects the commitment of economics and Albers as a whole in the design of its programs, relevant applications and opportunities for student engagement with employers and members of the business community. Additionally, such rankings can serve as an assessment of how students grasp concepts and how what happens in the classroom takes hold in the real world.

“We put a lot of effort in our assessment, how you determine if students are learning what you are teaching,” says Green, who has been with Albers since 2000, when he started as a visiting professor. This dedication to assessment shows in the consistently high rankings across many Albers programs.

So what’s this business about macro- economics and how does it differ from microeconomics? First, Green likes to point out that both programs in micro- and macroeconomics have been ranked in the top 25 since Bloomberg began the specialty rankings in 2010. Most are likely familiar with macroeconomics, which looks at economics on a large scale. However, most actually use microeconomics, which looks at individual, business and industry-level economic issues. For example, a macroeconomist would look at the impact of rising energy prices based on a national or global scale; a microeconomist examines the impact at a local, regional or industry level.

In his classes Green creates assignments built around real issues business owners are or may face, with students tasked to devise solutions.

“Our goal is to have students understand what is taught deeper, rather than to cover every possible topic” he says. “To depict concepts easily and logically you have to teach students not just the subject and rote memorization, but also how to communicate with someone who doesn’t know about the subject.”

Green says he and other Albers faculty changed their approach to teaching to improve the way students grasped the central concepts and to ensure that when they leave the classroom and the university they are well equipped professionally. Students learn more than just stats and data; it’s how they can use the stats and data in problem solving and in the day-to-day that sets them apart.

“My epiphany: bad research papers come from bad assignments,” says Green. To make good assignments, “We look at current issues being discussed in the news, such as targeting government spending to spur economic growth, energy pricing and tax policy, not just problems from a textbook that don’t seem real.”

The goal is to raise students’ interest and curiosity, which leads to their personal and professional growth, adds Green.
Gareth Green Albers Associate Professor Gareth Green says the high ranking from BusinessWeek is indicative of the strength of the business school as a whole.