This is the first of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. But only here can I write as much as I want 🙂
I review professors from a variety of perspectives. First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class. Time of year, time of day, etc. Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person. After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too. So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.
I just this evening finished my final exam for Economics 401 (macro) with Professor Dongsoo Shin. This is Spring quarter 2008, and it was during the one and only offered time, 5:30. Professor Shin is an Assistant Professor with the Economics Department, does most of his research in game theory, and seems to teach only in the spring. I took it on Monday and Wednesday, along with two other courses covering all four instructional days of the week. So it was a heavy load.
Them’s the facts. Now read on for the review.
Econ 401 is a pretty straightforward course. Supply, demand, types of competition (perfect, monopoly, monopolistic competition). And, at the end, game theory and Nash Equilibria (this is Shin’s area of expertise so we spend a fair amount on this topic, which is actually quite dense).
I’ll be honest – I took the course with Shin because I did not want to take the course with one of the other professors, who is known for being especially difficult for the sake of being difficult. I had heard that Shin was pretty good, though, so I wasn’t taking the course because he was easy, per se (and he was not). It was also the right timing – I needed to keep moving on my required courses, and the others were not available. This summer, for instance, is when I’m starting my Marketing track. Then I’ll be able to keep moving along in that field.
The course was quite in-depth, but it also required a lot of independent, conscientious work in order to keep up. Shin assigns not a lot of homework but very on-topic, but does not collect any of it. So you have to do it yourself and keep up. He suggests taking notes in class, then immediate rewriting at least a slimmed down version of them that same evening to help cement the ideas. I found that doing the homework did the same, and it exercised my ability to recollect something covered during the week.
Shin keeps the class lively and energized with his own enthusiasm for the topic, and with little stories that make it more accessible. He gives examples of the topics involving himself and actually people. For example, when discussing Dead Weight Loss, which is a part of the economic market that is just wasted due to some factor, he gave a great example. Let’s say he’s waiting in line to buy popcorn at the movies. He hates lines. He is willing to pay $20 to jump ahead and get the $5 popcorn. But the line at the theater doesn’t work that way, so he waits and pays the $5. Well, the theater just lost out on $15 – that’s a dead weight loss. So he draws the lines, uses different colored chalk to show the areas, then gives us this “real world” example which makes a big difference.
As far as class mechanics, there is one midterm covering the first half of the class (basically theory of the consumer), then a final covering everything else (theory of the firm, game theory). So the final is not cumulative. The exams are short – 3 questions, maybe 3-4 sections per question. You also have a team paper in which you utilize the tools learned in class to analyze a situation. For instance, we examined whether Southwest Airlines should stick to its direct-reservation system or throw its lot in with Expedia, Orbitz and the like using these tools.
Outside the classroom, Shin is still pretty funny and definitely idiosyncratic, but he’s also not all that approachable. Or, I guess I should say (considering he bought the first 2 pitchers at the local bar after our final), he can seem a bit gruff at times. This has nothing to do with his accent nor do I think it has to do with his Korean background. I think it’s just his personality. For instance, when I tried to present our paper topic to him by myself, during the day (I work on campus so I could do that, whereas we would be one of 6 teams vying for his time after class), he refused to even hear my idea without the rest of my group there. Now, one might ask why he agreed to meet me solo at all, and why he wouldn’t even hear my proposal. Well, that’s why he can seem a bit unapproachable and unfriendly. Oh, and he made me wait 5 minutes because he was late.
But he’s also the kind of guy with whom I’d like to sit and have coffee and just talk about life in economic terms (seriously). And I’d like to play basketball with him sometime. So…the jury is out. I am now leaning towards him being friendly, though there is a reason why I have a longer paragraph on why he is a bit off-putting.
Metrics are of questionable use, depending on professor and what classes I have and haven’t taken. But they might be of interest so I’ll do what I can. These are more like “comparisons” than metrics but I like the word better :-). Some rough parameters are:
- Workload: runs from heavy, which would be work in class, after class, individual and team, to just a lot of problem sets to basically just in-class discussion.
- Teaching style: spectrum runs from pure-lecture to interactive to all-over-the place.
- Interest in students: pretty obvious
- Relevance to the outside world: pretty obvious, though heavily restricted due to my background in academia
Workload: (Ultimately) heavy
The amount of work you might do during the term really depends on you. But he throws some curveballs at you on the midterm and final, so you need to take careful notes, read your notes, read his notes, and do the homework. There is also a group project, the topic for which he is oddly critical.
Teaching Style: Lecture
Shin is fun, but he just lectures.
Interest in students: Unclear
He cared a lot about our paper topic. But he didn’t care that he put something on the midterm that he himself admitted he never really covered.
Relevance to outside world: High.
Overall, the class was a good one, with lots of information that was clearly explained. Not a lot of questions were asked during it and I don’t think it’s because he didn’t give us the opportunity (that’s happened before). He just explained things clearly. I would recommend the course to others over some of the other Econ 401 faculty.
I hope this review is helpful. Overtime, I hope to improve my review style. I appreciate any comments.