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Educating Economists

The Teagle Discussion on Re-evaluating the Undergraduate Economics Major

Edited by David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick

The economics major is a central part of a college education. But is that economics major doing what it is meant to do? And if not, how should it be changed? This book raises a set of provocative questions that encourage readers to look at the economics major in a different light than it is typically considered and provides a series of recommendations for change.
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Chapter 13: The Integrative Nature of the Economics Major

Jessica Holmes


Jessica Holmes While I agree that an assessment of the role of the major in the liberal education is warranted, my initial reaction is that such analysis would reveal economics to be one of the more integrative disciplines – fulfilling the generalist need for both breadth and depth better than most other fields. First, economics departments typically require fewer classes than many other disciplines (for example, economics students typically take eight to ten classes to fulfill the major while science and language students often have to complete 15 or more courses). Thus, economics majors have more flexibility than most to enroll in a variety of courses across the curriculum; they are given ample opportunity for both depth in their field and breadth across the curriculum. Second, economics is one of the most common building blocks in the ever-increasing number of interdisciplinary programs that have emerged on college and university campuses. At my institution for example, students must take numerous economics courses to fulfill requirements for programs in international studies, international economics and politics, and environmental studies. The growth of these interdisciplinary programs suggests that the economics discipline does not operate in a silo, but rather extends beyond the boundaries of the major itself, exposing students across many disciplines to the ideas and tools of the economist. The growing abundance of interdisciplinary programs also suggests that “faculty homes” are less and less likely to be located within individual disciplines and students themselves are less and less likely to align themselves within specific...

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