Learning Goals

The Department of Economics has several educational goals for the students who take our courses. Most importantly, we want them to develop what our late colleague, Paul Heyne, called “an economic way of thinking,” which is a conceptual framework for thinking about and analyzing the economic problem of choice and scarcity. We believe that this approach has applications that go beyond our courses and helps students to understand the problems and challenges faced by all individuals and organizations, from families to governments.

More specifically, we want our students to develop intellectual insights in several areas:

Fundamental Knowledge

  • Understand and be able to use basic economic terminology
  • Understand how individuals and firms make themselves as well off as possible in a world of scarcity
  • Understand that the highest-valued alternative foregone is the opportunity cost of what is chosen
  • Understand how prices inform the decisions about which goods and services to produce, how to produce them, and who gets them
  • Understand how market structures, institutions, and government policies influence the allocation of resources in a market economy
  • Understand how aggregate economic activity is measured at the level of a nation
  • Understand how basic models of the economy summarize and explain the interactions between these main macroeconomic measures: output, employment, and inflation
  • Understand what causes economic activity to fluctuate over time
  • Understand the role of government in trying to smooth out these fluctuations
  • Understand the links between the domestic economy and the rest of the world

Professional Applications

  • Use economic data, graphs, and charts to analyze and forecast economic activity
  • Use economic models to understand and explain economic events and other social phenomena
  • Use computer software to analyze economic data and models
  • Use elements of game theory to explain the strategic choices of individuals or organizations
  • Evaluate economic policy proposals
  • Assess critically the economic content of articles or presentations

Personal Applications and Skills

  • Appreciate the usefulness of economic reasoning in personal decision-making
  • Understand that one’s social or economic position may influence one’s view of economic policies
  • Be able to read economics texts and articles
  • Be able to use available information in the construction of knowledge
  • Be able to express ideas to others-visually, verbally, and in writing

Policy on Academic Conduct