CSUSB Advising Podcast

Ep. 26 - What is the Economics major?

May 08, 2022 Matt Markin Season 1 Episode 26
CSUSB Advising Podcast
Ep. 26 - What is the Economics major?
Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 26 of the CSUSB Advising Podcast, Matt Markin chats with Economics Department Chair, Professor Daniel MacDonald! What is the Economics major? What career opportunities are there? What resources does Economics have? Find out in this episode!

For more information on the Economics major, visit the CSUSB Economics Department website or call (909) 537-5511.

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Transcription of episode.

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Hey Yoties! Welcome back to the CSUSB advising podcast. My name is Matt Markin from advising and academic services. And I hope you're doing well. Many of you have had questions about majors and what are certain majors? What can I do with the major? And one of the majors we offer at CSUSB is the economics major. So today's guest is economics department chair, Professor Daniel MacDonald. Professor MacDonald, welcome to the podcast.

Hey, Matt, thanks so much for having me. I like your background there. I see the little Dragonball Z figurines. I'm a big fan as well, so super excited about anime and all that kind of stuff. So that's really cool that you like that too.

Yeah, you know, and it's been great too. And I have students in my in my office that you know, they we can talk about. Exactly. So, definitely I think if anyone you know, contacts you or has you for a professor, that might be something else that conversation about.

It's kind of the old school stuff. You know, I'm not I'm not up on like the latest like seasons and the summer season and everything. But I like the classics, you know, definitely into them.

Oh, yeah, I'll catch the reruns when I can. And I think can kind of connect it to that is, you know, tell us a little about yourself?

Oh, sure. Well, yeah, I've been in Cal State since 2013. I came from University of Massachusetts Amherst, which is in Western Mass, just beautiful area, close to the Berkshire's New England, it's just a wonderful area, but definitely much colder than out here. So it's been nice to be out in Southern California, I don't really have any family out here or anything. So it's really just me and my wife that kind of came out here and we and we set up and really just fallen in love with the area. So we love the the outdoors we love you know, going for drives, we love the beach, we just love how everything is you know, just so within, you know, range of, you know, just having fun and just, you know, enjoying the the area. So, we have a daughter who's about six years old. And yeah, we've just really been very happy and very fortunate to to start up our lives out here. So yeah, you know, I obviously love economics, but I also like, I like classical music. So I'm a little bit of kind of early 20th century Russian, classical, music buff. I've also been getting in since the pandemic, I really got interested in like fitness. And so I'm going to the gym and lifting weights and things like that, it's kind of weird to think about your professor, you know, in the gym, but it's fun. And I like doing it, it's kind of a nice kind of way of kind of, you know, it's kind of a nice break from from work, you know, get out there and kind of get get your heart rate up and get some fitness. And so, yeah, I kind of just get interested in things over over over time. And I'm always, you know, excited and interested in learning something new.

Yeah, and I like how you say about, like, there's so much to do out here and everything's really close, especially being at Cal State San Bernardino. Do you know, like, so much is just around this area or like an hour, hour and a half away in any direction. So, yeah

Desert, mountains, ocean. Yeah. Yeah. And

you know, in your when I think about when I was a student, when I was younger, in elementary school, middle school, and I see like, my teacher, my professor out at the grocery store is always like this awkward, weird kind of thing. But I think too this is good to kind of know more about you because then you know, it's, you know, students kind of understand like, Hey, you are a human being. You have your likes. Yeah, exactly. You know,

it's all about finding those connections and realizing that yeah, we're all just kind of in this together, you know, learning and kind of working together. So, yeah, that's, that's, that's the kind of person I am.

And so working in economics, you know, a lot of students, you know, they hear at orientation about, okay, we have all these different majors, one of them is the economics major, but maybe, many since may not know what economics is, what that majors actually about. They might be interested, but not sure. You know, well, what is it? So how would you describe the economics major?

Yeah, you know, I thought about this a lot. And I think the one thing we found common among our majors is that they want to make the world a better place. And it sounds like a very kind of grand, like, kind of almost kind of sappy thing. But it's true. economics majors just start with a problem. We acquire the tools to solve it and then we get to work on a solution. We're really problem solvers at heart. When you take Intro to court intro courses, you're going to hear all of your professors telling you you got to solve this problem, you have these problem sets and so on. But it's important to the economics mindset that we're just thinking about how we can solve, you know, things, problems or issues that we see in front of us. It might be something about the environment, it might be working conditions might be something in the financial system, you know, how you're going to invest in crypto or, you know, stocks or whatever. It might be housing, you know, why is it so expensive to live in Southern California, right? It could be a new policy proposal like about the minimum wage or a new tax like a gas tax or something. And what all of these problems have in common is that you can use economic tools like, you know, quantitative analysis or mathematics or just, you know, thinking through economic theories to think about, you know, what would be a solution to that problem. So, you know, we've, we get criticized sometimes because we kind of overstep our boundaries, we don't stay in our lane. But you know, some of that we're kind of proud of you know, that we have the tools to solve a wide range of problems.

Yeah, and it's almost seems like this is an area that it kind of bleeds into a lot of different areas as well. And I liked that a lot of what you've mentioned, like some, some of these issues, they're all I think, relatable to so many, so many people. So I think you've kind of really given kind of this broad view in terms of maybe students kind of open their eyes to like, hey, this actually could be a major that I didn't even think about, because maybe I had this preconceived notion of what it was. So yeah, it's nice to hear more about it. And with your major, are there certain concentrations that that your major offers?

Yeah, so kind of fitting in with that idea of just like, you know, giving you a set of tools to solve problems, we do offer a set of concentration, so students can find what works best for what they want to get out of the major. So we offer general applied and mathematical concentrations. The applied concentration has you take some business classes like finance, so if you kind of want to do something more on the business side of economics, we offer a mathematical concentration that has you take some computer science or mathematics courses, you know, I know, some of those courses are very popular, and students want to learn how to code. And so we do offer that pathway for our students as well. We even offer a separate political economy major, which has you take courses in sociology, political science, geography, public policy. And so that would be a major more for if you want to do you know, maybe something more locally, you're interested in maybe, you know, city government or just local politics, you want to make, you know, you want to go back and, you know, contribute to to your hometown, right. It's the kind of major that drives students toward doing that.

Yes, a lot of different interesting opportunities there. And of course, we're going to opportunities, one of the questions we get a lot is, and you've kind of alluded to this, as well, with some of the concentrations is the career question that I'm sure you get a lot, too. It's like, well, this major sounds interesting, but what can I actually do with it? What are some career opportunities? So anything to add to that? 

I do have a little bit to add to that. I mean, first of all, you're at Cal State, right? Congratulations, you have a golden ticket pretty much at this point, right? A college degree gets you into so many different opportunities, right, that you want to be have access to, without the degree. So first of all, you've already made like 90% of the right decision, right? But when it comes to that last 10%, what kind of additionally can you get out of like an economics major. Economics graduates can be found in all sorts of organizations, you know, they work as data analysts, for banks or for the public sector. We do consulting work for, for, for legal firms, real estate, employees, economists, you know, all parts of the public sector really employ economics graduates, because we have that understanding of the economy, right, we have that kind of broader set of interests in, you know, whatever kind of policy or whatever kind of social issue, whether it be housing or the environment that you might be interested in. So our graduates do very well. Some of them intern at the Supreme Court, the Supreme county court, some of them work for local banks, again, consulting firms along the coast, like Long Beach or LA. So economics graduates can be found in all sorts of different places.

Yeah, seems like and so someone might be listening and think like, this actually sounds like a possible major I might be interested in or just the topic sounds interesting. Is there an introductory level course or something a student might be able to take at CSUSB?

Yeah, definitely. And, you know, I understand too, you know, you've gotten into Cal States and now you want to make sure you get out and you want to make sure that you're knocking off those GE requirements. And, you know, you want to make sure that you're you know, you've got the right courses and everything to to make sure that you graduate on time. And yeah, one popular course we have is econ 2202 principles of macro economics. So that's within a, instead of micro economics, it's within AI. So macro economics, it's about, you know, GDP you're studying unemployment inflation that satisfies the GE requirements. So that's, that's a very popular pathway into our major. Aside from learning those, you know, basics about the unemployment and inflation and GDP, you're learning about why income inequality has been rising, what economies should, you know, do to get out of a recession and so on. Another popular course is econ 2000, which is the economy problems and perspectives. We have a lot of our first time freshmen that that move into that course that are that are taking that course. And this is a great course to just kind of, you know, give you an overall kind of exposure to economics, you know, yeah, supply and demand, that's economics, but you can learn about how COVID affected the economy. You know, why house prices are so high in Southern California, I think I mentioned that earlier, the socio economic impact of our university on the community. So it's really a course that again, satisfies the GE requirement, but also kind of, you know, gives you kind of an overall view of the kinds of questions that that economics majors can answer. And the other thing about econ 2000, is that once you've taken that course, you you can get right into the political economy major. So we've made that another pathway into the major alongside the traditional principles of micro and macro, you can take this econ 2000, and get right into the interesting political economy stuff as well.

Yeah, seems like a really like nice little pathway right there taking that one class and then diving right into the major. So that's really nice. And you said, you talked about, you know, what students are learning and like econ 2000, are the Econ 2202. But I guess generally, within the Econ major, can you talk more about what students are learning in the classes?

Sure, yeah, it is somewhat of a quantitative major. So you know, you're required to take some statistics courses, you're going to be doing some algebra. But really, you should think of it as tools. And that's what economics is really all about, like, any economist is going to tell you about their toolbox. And it sounds kind of weird. But basically, they're talking about their toolkit, they're talking about what they have in that box, because in the end, they're just tools, right, math or statistics, they're just, you know, ways that you can address a problem. And of course, you can address problems in other ways. So we offer a course that trains students more in qualitative methods. So in vivo, so if you're interested in interviews and surveys, and you want to do that, maybe you've even conducted some surveys for some of your other classes. So you learn how to analyze that data, because that's a rich amount of data as well, right? And it's not necessarily statistics or numbers. So you learn those kinds of tools. You learn Excel, and Python, right? For quantitative analysis. And all the while you're learning from accomplished faculty, right? So these are faculty who are internationally known for their research that work in these areas of, you know, survey analysis and interview analysis and data analysis. So, yeah, you're learning all these different tools. And you're also learning different worldviews, right? Different ways of thinking about economics, because it's going a little bit off topic. But you know, there are some misconceptions of economics, right, that it's kind of one dimensional. There's just one kind of recipe. But economics is really a lot of different recipes, a lot of different worldviews depending on your values and objectives. And so those are the things that you're you're learning in the in the majors.

Yeah, I like how you say that, that it, there are tools that you're learning. Very important. Yeah. Because sometimes, you know, as a student, we might go into a classroom, like, am I ever gonna use this? But, you're learning something about, well, how do I solve this problem, but then I'm learning kind of as critical thinking skills to apply to other problems that that I may come across in my life. And yeah.

You're interested in right, the you might not want to solve whatever problem the professor is posing, but you might have your own questions. And so we're, we're equipping you for for doing that.

Yeah. And if you think of it as a tool, and that you're learning these tools, and you're gonna be more intentional as well. So it's even like, you know, if you think about, like, the cell phone, like, if I think of this as an actual tool, that I'll probably be more intentional of like, when and how often I'm actually looking at it and why I'm looking at my phone. Oh, good point. Yeah, that's right. And it's good that you talked about the misconceptions as well, because, yeah, you know, whether they've heard it from someone else from someone else about this particular major, you're now kind of bringing the life about, okay, what exactly is this major? And what's like truth from what they've heard? That's right. Yeah. And are there any resources that your department for economics offers students?

Sure, well, we have a very good we have a very solid advising program. So I know all of you guys are working with advisors and you have, you know, advisors that that help you kind of get through your courses. But our faculty also take a very personal approach to advising. We'll sit down with you, you know, sometimes we can give you some more information about kind of the course offerings that might be in the future. But we also talk to you about, you know, what are your career interests? What do you want to do with the major? You know, basically, you know, try to get a very good sense of who you are as a person, so that we can really help you out the most. So advising is very important and very personal part of our department, we have 100 majors, but, you know, we take the time to make sure that we help every single one of them and make sure that they're getting the best information that they can. We also offer scholarships. We offer financial aid to our students. There have been several people over the years who have donated quite large sums of money to our department. And we have three endowed scholarships that we use to support our students, and which really helps them out, you know, with the cost of tuition and so on. It really helps them, you know, be able to focus on the degree and really get through. So we have these kinds of support networks, and this financial support. We don't offer any tutoring at the moment. But I think part of that is just because with the the pandemic, you know, everything was online, and it was very hard for, you know, to set up those kinds of communication networks, but now that we're shifting more back to in person and offering more classes in person, I think there's going to be a greater need and demand for tutoring. But you know, certainly your professors can can help you out. We have a very good group here, very supportive group. And, yeah, just, we're here to make sure that you succeed. And that's our number one goal.

Yeah, and, you know, especially with, let's say, you know, when when students have questions, a lot of times, they may not think, oh, I can ask my professor. So I mean, that's why professors have the office hours. I mean, you're the ones teaching the classes creating the exams. So who best to ask then you as a professor teaching the class, and then some of the 2201, the micro and the 2202, and two at the macro, ours are tutoring center, and University Hall does usually have some tutors. So if you do, or if you're taking, if you are student listening right now, and you're taking one of those two classes, there actually will be some help for that, if you need it through the the tutoring center on campus. And then as we're winding down with this, what's been what has your department been up to lately?

Oh, yeah. So what have we been doing? Yeah, so we, we've, we just awarded some of those scholarships that I mentioned. So we just had our, you know, scholarship season wrap up, and we're very excited to be able to offer three of our students scholarships, these endowed scholarships that will help them complete their coursework in the fall. I think one of the students is planning on graduating in the fall. So it's really nice to be able to help them out, you know, right as they're finishing up their their time at Cal State. We also the other week, we had Dr. Mark Paul, from USC here. Mark Paul is an expert on the economics of climate change. It's actually exciting because the following week, so I think just this this week, he's scheduled to present out in Washington, D.C., to the House Oversight Committee on a green New Deal. And we literally just had him at Cal State last week. So that was really nice. He met with our faculty, but he also met with students. We had a lunch, he we had him out for dinner as well. So that was really nice. We just also finished our recruiting for two new faculty. So we're bringing in two new faculty next year, one who's coming from Colorado State and another one coming from University of Utah. So they're going to be teaching courses on the economics of Latin America on different basically economic tools, kinds of classes that I that I mentioned to you earlier. So we're growing as a department. We're having lots of exciting people come and speak to us and you know, we're really supporting our students through, you know, these these, these financial resources. So, yeah, it's been it's been a pretty busy last couple of months. You know, especially with recruiting for new professors. That usually takes a lot of work on our part. But we're very happy with the outcome. And the people that are coming in are very excited to be here. And we think that they're just going to add so much to our program.

Yeah, sounds like it. And I've learned a lot to just listening to you talking about the economics major. Now I have more information that I can, you know, talk to students about, and kind of going back to you were talking about, like the advising and how you, students can get advised by any of the faculty in economics. So that would be great for any students listening, where you might be meeting with one of the professional advisors, maybe you're meet with me or someone else. But we now have a connection where, you know, if you are interested in economics, we can aid we can connect you with Professor MacDonald, or any of the economics professors in the department.

That's right. It's really working as a team, you guys are doing amazing work. I mean, I love working with you guys. Shout out to Arturo, he's really been great for our department. But yeah, as professors, we also, you know, we went to graduate school in economics, we, we've, I've seen so many students, over the years do amazing things that I I'd love to share with you guys, if you're interested in, you know, certain things, you know, I had a student last semester come to me and they said, You know, I really want to, I really want to contribute back to my community, I want to work in some kind of area, like back in back in my home, town of Rialto. And I said, Well, you know, we also has an economic development agency, and they said, I didn't even know such an organization existed, or, you know, oh, we, you know, there are consulting firms, economics, consulting firms, they literally just work with, you know, legal professionals and real estate professionals, to, you know, crunch numbers and, you know, do some forecasts, and they said, again, I didn't even know that existed. So, you know, when our students go out into the world and do great things, and tell me about it, I can then share that with you. And, you know, we can establish those connections. And it's just been so great to see, you know, so many of our students just do some really amazing things that I didn't even know existed before they told me that they were doing them. So it's been really exciting to be a part of this. And we have that historical knowledge that can they can also help, you know, make it easier for you to navigate everything at Cal State and beyond.

Yeah, no. 100%. So another reason students, you talked with your professors as well. And yeah, so this has been very enlightening. And you know, hopefully less, you know, listening at this podcast listed about, about how this connects to climate change, or inflation, global efforts, financing, baking, government policies, there's so many different areas you can go into with an economics degree. And then if, if anyone has any questions or wants more information, you can always go on the website, csusb.edu forward slash economics. And then we'll also include the economics contact info in the show notes as well. So, Professor MacDonald, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

All right. Thanks, Matt. And thanks, everyone, for listening. I really, like I said, I think you've already made you know, 90% of the right decisions by showing up here. You know, being at Cal State. We, I hope that you know, we can help you in that last 10% of, you know, really setting you on on the path toward whatever you might be interested in. So thank you.

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