Review: Linda Kamas, Economics, Leavey School of Business

ECON 405:  Macroeconomics
At a glance

  • Workload:  Moderate
  • Teaching Style:  Lecture
  • Interest in students: High
  • Relevance to outside world: High, especially if you’re into economics

Overall Professor Rating: 3 (she can get a bit impatient at times)

Overall Course Rating: 4 (but she can also make the course entertaining while getting the teaching across

The Review

This is the latest 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. That database can be a bit hard to wade through, and the comments are short and often just link to other threads, which are themselves pretty short and superficial. 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 also just write whatever it is that I think is relevant or will be helpful to others.  That is my overall goal.

The facts

I took ECON 405, Macroeconomics, in Winter 2009.  This is the second of two required economics courses, and Professor Kamas teaches several sections.  I took the later section of the evening, and I think that some of my comments about her patience, etc might be a result of that.

Them’s the facts (slim as they are). Now read on for the review.

The class

This is one of the two required economics courses.  In this case, it’s macro-economics, which is a field essentially invented by John Maynard Keynes during the Great Depression and examines how economics operate at an aggregate, (inter)national level.  It’s no longer about what price you should put on your widget to sell the most of them to whoever next comes in the door.  It’s about the average prices for, say, a gallon of milk (or a “basket of goods”) across the entire nation, what forces affect that, how that affects national production and output, and how everything can be manipulated by the government.

The course covers aggregate demand and supply curves (which define prices and GDP, or gross domestic product, which is the nation’s production capacity), and what are called Keynesian curves, which is how actual spending and taxation and other factors affect our GDP.  It compares how the Keynesian GDP predictions intersect with a theoretical, full GDP.  This is where our GDP is at the moment, and one can then examine how, say, a tax increase will move this back and forth.

FWIW, a slightly more detailed look at macro is how the government uses fiscal policy – spending and taxation – and the central bank/Federal Reserve uses monetary policy – raising and lower interest rates and the money supply – to affect GDP.  These days, the incredibly low (almost zero) overnight discount/interest rate from the Fed is intended to stimulate borrowing and money transfers (though with the credit market still somewhat frozen from the credit crunch, this has not had much effect).  The fiscal policy efforts by the government, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is just massive spending to stimulate consumer activity.

I really got into the topic after the course, so I think it’s safe to say that Kamas did at least a pretty good job at teaching it.

As far as mechanics, there is a midterm, final, presentation and a paper.  The midterm and final include multiple choice and some graphing of curves.  The paper is supposed to be about 1 of 3 topics, done in groups.  In our case, it was something like comparing the current crisis of 2007 to the Great Depression and Japan.  The presentations, done in the same groups as for the papers, were only 10 minute events about a particular article on current events.

There are also problem sets, though I can’t remember if we had to turn them in or not.  Those and the practice midterm were essential to doing well on the exams.

The Person

Linda Kamas is a pretty fun teacher.  She enjoys the topic, does a good job of lecture combined with annotation of notes while still taking a few questions.  Since I had her in the second section, she seemed a bit irritated if people didn’t get the topic right away.  I don’t think that was her “real” personality, though.  She seemed open to discussions about different topics when it came to the paper and class, and was very much about current events.  She is a macroeconomics scholar, so she really enjoys talking about the stuff.  I liked her personality.  She is engaging, interactive, and accessible, personality-wise.

Some Metrics

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: Moderate
The necessity of doing the problem sets, which could be a bit tricky with the wording, makes this more than an easy class.  But if you put in the effort you will succeed, I think.

Teaching Style:  Lecture

Interest in students:  High
This is more out of her personality than anything else.  It’s not that she showed a constant concern about whether we were getting it or not, or tailoring her lectures to adjust to our performance on exams (as, say, Paisley does in Accounting).  But I felt her personality indicated concern.

Relevance to outside world:  Very high

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